What are the military advantages of a chariot?

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What are the military advantages of a chariot?

Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:57 pm

I'm just curious. They seem so fragile, vulnerable and require a lot of training. It seems to me that normal cavalry would be far more flexible and efficient in an ancient battles. Obviously there were military advantages to a chariot, does anyone know? Thanks!

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Re: What are the military advantages of a chariot?

Thu Sep 18, 2014 2:51 am

Well, if we are talking historically, a chariot is a more stable platform to fight from, and was used for different purposes depending on who (what culture) was using them

To the best of my knowldege charriots were almost never used to charge into enemy ranks (horses typically just don't do that). Egyptian/Persian chariots were typically used as bow platforms from a distance or as a javalin platforms as they raced across the enemy's front and would run in a big circiut. It is hard to control a horse and aim a missile weapon at the same time, so with a driver and a shooter, one guy navigates the chariot and keeps the horses under control while the other concentrates on delivering accurate fire. A chariot used like this could also carry more arrows/javalins than could be managed on an individual horse.

The other way to employ a charriot was as a mobile personnel carrier. Greeks/Celts typically did this. The charriot would support one hero or a couple warriors. With the battle raging, the charriot driver would race into the fight, annd the warrior on board would jump off into the frey, and the charriot would haul axel out of there. In a few minutes the charriot would race in again to the warrior he dropped off (perhaps with a fresh one on board), and would pick up the guy out of they fight and carry him back for a breather. Hand to hand combat is exhausting, so the guys in the heaviest armor would be shuttled in/out to keep them fresh.

So the point of the charriot was not to be the solid main battle tanks crashing through enemy ranks, but instead specialized assualt platforms that provided fast & light support

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Re: What are the military advantages of a chariot?

Thu Sep 18, 2014 4:40 am

Kurtesh mostly has it.

As a mobile archery platform or similar was the most common style
As a transport for noblemen or heavily armoured fighters of some importance.
After these came the idea of breaking up formations with chariots. Think of the 300 spartans being the style of fighting for many years so this was obviously a valuable thing to achieve, though it had limited success. Just using light horse wouldn't have been as efficient and heavily armoured horses didn't happen until later, probably due to the cost of metals.
This kind of chariot had armoured horses, eventually tested out some scythes on the wheels and so on so it had the potential to do a lot of damage but troops were well ordered enough to just let them through and close ranks again before the lines joined. The scythes weren't that helpful as the chariots had to stay further apart from one another so there was room to slip between them and take out a rider.

Normal cavalry did become more flexible, this was really before the time that horse archers were around though. Cavalry would not have been as efficient as they take a lot of money and effort to maintain, nor is there an unlimited supply of horses bred for combat.

So in summary, apart from the archer chariots, the regular chariot was used to break up lines and do a little damage or get them out of formation while the rest of the forces flanked them. In game turns, they should have the impaler rule and hurl or barge at least in addition to the normal strikes to wound. Its fairly accurate to say chariots could take on light cavalry, but not if they were separated from each other as even infantry could keep up with them so they would be easy pickings for light cavalry.

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Re: What are the military advantages of a chariot?

Fri Sep 19, 2014 8:44 am

Bear in mind that training of horses to a standard that we would recognise as a War Horse took a while to develop, so Onagers, donkeys, mules, etc. were the early draft animals. The stirrup and saddle that permitted a stable platform for a rider to fight from atop a horse also came some time after the chariot was invented.

In simple terms the chariot was the only option for millenia. It was more than just a status symbol - at the battle of Kadesh (the first recorded battle in history) there were hundreds, if not thousands, of them present. Hit and run seems to be a favourite tactic, breaking up enemy massed formations with missiles, but it was also a means to get close to an enemy for hand-to-hand fighting while still fresh. LOTR's single-man chariots would have been very rare, many had two or even three crew, with one acting as a driver throughout.

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Re: What are the military advantages of a chariot?

Fri Sep 19, 2014 8:23 pm

Thanks for the incredibly detailed replies!

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Re: What are the military advantages of a chariot?

Sun Sep 21, 2014 7:47 am

Horses were also relatively small creatures. The modern horse is a giant compared to the ancient horse.

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