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  1. #1

    The Battle of 3 Armies?

    So I am re-reading The Hobbit for the nth time, and I was wondering what would've happened if the Orcs decided to bail on the Battle of 5 armies. Maybe it would have become the Battle of 3 Armies? The Dwarves of the Iron Hills vs. the Elves of Mirkwood and Laketown? Seriously though, those Orcs had really bad timing. If they had waited for like 5 more days the dwarves would have already slaughtered their way up to Erebor and it would've been easy pickings. But if you completely ignore the orcs, what do you think would have happened? The Dwarves and Elves (and maybe Laketown) fight each other for the loot? I feel like that would have ended in disaster for everyone. Dwarves would've had to go uphill, but some could have made it to the top to start up the meat-grinder. I dunno, I've always wondered what the outcome would have been for some reason :P

  2. #2
    Most likely either a standoff or a mutual slaughter. Both sides were too closely matched tactically to give any significant advantage.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Egorvlad View Post
    Most likely either a standoff or a mutual slaughter. Both sides were too closely matched tactically to give any significant advantage.
    Putting on my armchair general's hat: out in the open like that, unsupported heavy infantry (like, say, Dwarves) might tend to fair poorly against an opponent who'd fielded a lot of archers (like, say, Elves). There isn't actually anything in the text to suggest the two sides were so closely matched tactically, just that the results would be grim and tragic.

  4. #4
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    I think the winner would have been pretty badly mauled.
    Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming "WOW, what a ride!"
    Continuing the never ending battle to keep Lobelia Sackville-Baggins in check

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Putting on my armchair general's hat: out in the open like that, unsupported heavy infantry (like, say, Dwarves) might tend to fair poorly against an opponent who'd fielded a lot of archers (like, say, Elves). There isn't actually anything in the text to suggest the two sides were so closely matched tactically, just that the results would be grim and tragic.
    On the other hand heavy infantry that manages to reach the lightly armored enemy formation can decimate it. Historically positional archers were really most effective either from heavily fortified positions or in cases when enemy infantry was severely limited in its maneuverability. And archer skirmishers can harry them but not inflict critical casualties.

    So our scenario: Men and Elves have certain advantage in numbers (though not critical, they don't have enough forces for a full Mountain siege). Dwarves are considerably better armed and armoured. Men and Elves have some skirmishers on the Dwarven flank (above) and some forces in the open (infantry & some archers as well). Dwarves have the advantage of a close heavy formation (most likely shield wall at that). Men and Elves are better rested. Dwarves have the advantage of some rear support from a fortified position (Thorin & Co.).
    Results very inconclusive. As Nymphonic said whoever the "winner" might have been, they would've suffered overwhelming casualties.

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    Even without the Goblins and Wargs showin up, I ain't sure there had to be a battle. Gandalf did manage to stop the initial attack with his Wiz Biz. Gandalf's a pretty smart cookie, and usually the man with the plan. Reckon he had something percolatin in that big brain of his in the camp of the Elves and Men.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Egorvlad View Post
    On the other hand heavy infantry that manages to reach the lightly armored enemy formation can decimate it. Historically positional archers were really most effective either from heavily fortified positions or in cases when enemy infantry was severely limited in its maneuverability. And archer skirmishers can harry them but not inflict critical casualties.
    History? Try what happened to the Spartans at Sphacteria. Unsupported heavy infantry can't close with skirmishers and will be gradually worn down if it stays in the field. And in this case, Dwarves were hardly as fleet of foot as Elves to begin with and so wouldn't be able to force an engagement with them at all, and mail isn't proof against arrows. And in any case, nobody said that the Elvish spearmen were particularly lightly armoured.

    Being above ground and out in the open was not the Dwarves' natural element. Their only real hope would have been to break through to Erebor and then somehow get themselves inside in good order, without taking a load of casualties in the process - far from easy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bambubambubambu View Post
    Even without the Goblins and Wargs showin up, I ain't sure there had to be a battle.
    You really need to read that bit of the book again... Gandalf only managed to stop the initial battle because the Goblins and Wargs had appeared in the distance, and were a clear and present danger to everyone.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    History? Try what happened to the Spartans at Sphacteria. Unsupported heavy infantry can't close with skirmishers and will be gradually worn down if it stays in the field. And in this case, Dwarves were hardly as fleet of foot as Elves to begin with and so wouldn't be able to force an engagement with them at all, and mail isn't proof against arrows. And in any case, nobody said that the Elvish spearmen were particularly lightly armoured.
    Wrong historic comparison. Think more Middle Ages in terms of tactics, armour and weaponry. Archers were critically successful at their initial technological breakthrough period. Think Poitiers and Agincourt. And once the heavy archery lost its novelty such sound success was never achieved again.

    In any case, neither position was great in our case. Men/Elves had flank advantage and better defensive position. Dwarves had formation and surge advantage and rear fortified position advantage. Again, almost equal tactically.

  10. #10
    Hmm, since they were so equally matched I guess the winner would be whoever had the better leader and a more experienced army. First I thought the dwarves had more experience because of the recent Dwarf-Goblin wars. The elves were all really old though, so maybe they had more war experience. I remember reading that the crows got exited when the Elves were marching out of Mirkwood because there hadn't been a war in ages, so the elves could have been pretty rusty. I'm really not sure about the men of Laketown though, never heard of them entering any wars. I kind of feel like the dwarves would have just won because of their recent wars. I don't really know anything about elf wars though, apart from that one Last Alliance battle against Sauron.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Egorvlad View Post
    Wrong historic comparison.
    Not at all. The issue's the same: heavy infantry that's plagued by effective ranged weapons and can't force the enemy to engage on its own terms because its manoeuvrability is limited will rapidly end up in serious trouble. It needs support. Typically what you'd do is harve archers of your own to see off skirmishers, or a cavalry screen. These unfortunate Dwarves appear to have had neither.

    Men/Elves had flank advantage and better defensive position. Dwarves had formation and surge advantage and rear fortified position advantage. Again, almost equal tactically.
    Nuts. The Dwarves' position looked bad: Bard had already concluded as much. They were at a tactical disadvantage, a situatiom which they were trying to get out of by attacking first.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Not at all. The issue's the same: heavy infantry that's plagued by effective ranged weapons and can't force the enemy to engage on its own terms because its manoeuvrability is limited will rapidly end up in serious trouble. It needs support. Typically what you'd do is harve archers of your own to see off skirmishers, or a cavalry screen. These unfortunate Dwarves appear to have had neither.
    Comparison is wrong because Spartan contemporaries didn't have "heavy" infantry, especially of a sort Middle-Earth had. Nor concept of full armour then. Proven by Rome when legions started using scutums in formation thus pretty much negating ranged attacks effectiveness as long as infatnry holds the line. Testudo essentially had only one weakness - a lot of long ranged enemy cavalry. And Roman armour was far inferior to Middle Ages plates which Middle-Earth reflects more or less.


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Nuts. The Dwarves' position looked bad: Bard had already concluded as much. They were at a tactical disadvantage, a situatiom which they were trying to get out of by attacking first.
    Precisely. And they would've succeeded almost certainly. Our Dwarves weren't limited at all in their maneuvers. All they needed was to close in with the enemy in the valley (and they were already close marching along the Mountain spur) to negate the skirmishers above and turn the field into melee. With armoured formation perfectly achievable.
    Last edited by Egorvlad; Feb 17 2014 at 08:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    You really need to read that bit of the book again... Gandalf only managed to stop the initial battle because the Goblins and Wargs had appeared in the distance, and were a clear and present danger to everyone.
    Actually I did read the passage again before I posted and I would quote it here, but that ain't really the point I was trying to make. It was more about Gandalf putting on a big enuff show to bust up their momentum and focus on something else.

    Getting down to the brass tacks I just ain't sure battle between the Men/Elves and Dwarves was the only outcome if the Orcs and Warges had not attacked at that moment, and Gandalf don't seem like the type to sit idly by and do nothing. The book indicates that Gandalf knew trouble was on the way, it was just the timing that took everyone by surprise. I think there are other ways it could have gone down.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Egorvlad View Post
    Comparison is wrong because Spartan contemporaries didn't have "heavy" infantry, especially of a sort Middle-Earth had.
    *cough* Hoplites *cough*

    Nor concept of full armour then.
    Just how many times do I have to point out that arrows can go through mail before it sinks in?

    Proven by Rome when legions started using scutums in formation thus pretty much negating ranged attacks effectiveness as long as infatnry holds the line. Testudo essentially had only one weakness - a lot of long ranged enemy cavalry. And Roman armour was far inferior to Middle Ages plates which Middle-Earth reflects more or less.
    Where are you getting this from? Tolkien describes people wearing hauberks rather than plate armour (and that specifically includes the Dwarves we're talking about here). And a shield wall is not a testudo.

    Precisely. And they would've succeeded almost certainly. Our Dwarves weren't limited at all in their maneuvers. All they needed was to close in with the enemy in the valley (and they were already close marching along the Mountain spur) to negate the skirmishers above and turn the field into melee. With armoured formation perfectly achievable.
    Newsflash, you can't close with a more mobile enemy which refuses to engage, particularly if you're trying to hold a tight formation because that slows you down. And this would all be while being flanked by all the skirmishers? Yeah, right

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    Quote Originally Posted by bambubambubambu View Post
    Actually I did read the passage again before I posted and I would quote it here, but that ain't really the point I was trying to make. It was more about Gandalf putting on a big enuff show to bust up their momentum and focus on something else.

    Getting down to the brass tacks I just ain't sure battle between the Men/Elves and Dwarves was the only outcome if the Orcs and Warges had not attacked at that moment, and Gandalf don't seem like the type to sit idly by and do nothing. The book indicates that Gandalf knew trouble was on the way, it was just the timing that took everyone by surprise. I think there are other ways it could have gone down.
    Battle was inevitable because the Dwarves were trying to force the issue. The only reason it hadn't started sooner was that Thranduil didn't want to start a war over gold - the Dwarves decided to attack while he was hesitating. Gandalf could only stop it because he had a pressing reason for them to stop fighting. That's the whole drama of the situation, they would have fought on otherwise.

  16. #16
    Rad, you know you are too argumentative sometimes? We can discuss this calmly without heated expressions like "how many times..." and so on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    *cough* Hoplites *cough*
    Yes, hoplites. And only partial body armour and phalanx being a loose formation leaving every warrior exposed to ranged attacks. That is the difference between them and later close formation warfare.


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Just how many times do I have to point out that arrows can go through mail before it sinks in?
    Yes, no warrior is invulnerable. Yes, any force will take casualties from ranged attacks. What I am saying is that history proves such attacks shall not be too heavy in our Dwarven scenario.

    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Where are you getting this from? Tolkien describes people wearing hauberks rather than plate armour (and that specifically includes the Dwarves we're talking about here). And a shield wall is not a testudo.
    Testudo was simply an example of the appearance of a close formation. And shield wall differs from testudo simply by the lack of overhead shields.
    Correct, Dwarves probably did not have plate mail. Neither did the vast majority of Middle Ages soldiers. Mostly only knights did. And still hauberked shielded close formations fared well against skirmish archers historically apart from some choice cases I mentioned when the enemy achieved significant tactical advantage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Newsflash, you can't close with a more mobile enemy which refuses to engage, particularly if you're trying to hold a tight formation because that slows you down. And this would all be while being flanked by all the skirmishers? Yeah, right
    Also correct, but in our case Men/Elves did not have such flexibility. They were positioned in a valley terminating with the Gates, so essentially between two mountain spurs of whichever size. Their main objective was to prevent the Dwarves from reaching the gates *at all costs* as both Bard and Thranduil realized. So they were hemmed in a tight corner with the Dwarves advancing in a tight formation with the express target of reaching the gates. Dwarves didn't have to chase the enemy across the valley, all they needed was to reach the entrance in a straight line. The clash was inevitable. And once the Dwarves reach the enemy lines (not too long since they are already marching along one spur) skirmishers cannot fire effectively with their allies being in the mix.



    And with all those details being variables - yes, might take more casualties, might take less, Elves might be less of a wimps we think of them, etc., etc. - still both sides are close enough tactically to result either in a standoff or a mass slaughter as was the point from the beginning.
    Last edited by Egorvlad; Feb 18 2014 at 08:16 AM.

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    Let's see here...

    On One Side you have relatively untrained and untested mass of men just there to get some recompense for a burned city...

    Side 2, a fairly well armed, experienced fighting force, although it had been a while, seeking redress from a small slight and a part of the pot 'o gold...

    all vs. Side the Third, you have the best equip, best trained, most experienced and most motivated armed force in the North with the added bonus of a fortified position that could withstand a prolonged siege.

    The question would be if Gandalf sits by and let this slaughter happen or would he be satisfied that Smaug was dead and the Lonely Mtn was back under friendly (relative that is) control.

    I don't think the battle would happen, but if it did, I bet my ring of gold that the dwarves would win.

  18. #18
    I think that bambu3's is closest to what would've happened, but here's some of my thoughts:

    x I think that it would be inevitable that the goblins, and thereby also the wargs/wolfs, would show up. Because of the thing that a big gold-pile guarded by a dragon for ?centuries? and now suddenly has grown in availability, is not a thing any human-like being would go and ignore. (i mean, excluding folk like Tom Bombadil or Beorn and other humble, noble-minded folk.)

    x I'm quite certain that Gandalf knew or suspected about the goblins and wargs would show up. I imagine him saying something like "Stop this fooling around and start preparing for the arrival of those logheads who, after all are even more annoying than you lot in your worst times..." and so on in a more Gandalf-ish style, accompanied by discouraging lightblasts and threats if the people would want to war each other anyway.

    x Also there existed other ways to solve the conflict, but from what's written there I'm not sure they were in the apropos mind-set to feel like testing them.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Ironcrown View Post
    [...]I don't think the battle would happen, but if it did, I bet my ring of gold that the dwarves would win.
    I think that the thing that would have happened IF the battle had come to pass is:
    The dwarves' primary goal would be to get inside Erebor. They would succeed, either with small casualties, or with larger damage to the elves, men and themselves. Then they would fortify there. It' already said in the book that the elves and men couldn't carry out a complete siege, so the goblins, wargs and others would have plenty of time showing up before so much more would happen. Casualties and gall, but no full-scale battle yet.

    My thought

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    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Battle was inevitable because the Dwarves were trying to force the issue. The only reason it hadn't started sooner was that Thranduil didn't want to start a war over gold - the Dwarves decided to attack while he was hesitating. Gandalf could only stop it because he had a pressing reason for them to stop fighting. That's the whole drama of the situation, they would have fought on otherwise.
    Agree to disagree with you on this. But Yikes! That's a dismal and dark outcome in place of what was already a pretty dark chapter in what's supposed to be a story for kids. Glad Tolkien didn't go that way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nymphonic View Post
    I think the winner would have been pretty badly mauled.

    Yeah I ain't seeing a lot of truly happy winners in this scenario either Nyph.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Egorvlad View Post
    Rad, you know you are too argumentative sometimes? We can discuss this calmly without heated expressions like "how many times..." and so on.
    Try listening, then. We're talking about The Hobbit, where we're told in detail what the Dwarves were wearing and also that their tactical situation was bad, with Bard calling them fools for it... but you go on about plate armour and the two sides being tactically even. That's not the scenario we're presented with.

    Yes, hoplites. And only partial body armour and phalanx being a loose formation leaving every warrior exposed to ranged attacks. That is the difference between them and later close formation warfare.
    Relative to the war-gear of the day, hoplites wore more armour than the average Middle-earth guy would. The classic Greek-style helm rather than just a conical helm with a nasal, a breastplate, and greaves. Typical war-gear for Middle-earth would be helm, shield, hauberk and no leg armour at all. And since when is a phalanx a loose formation?

    Yes, no warrior is invulnerable. Yes, any force will take casualties from ranged attacks. What I am saying is that history proves such attacks shall not be too heavy in our Dwarven scenario.
    Sorry, which history is this? No early-Medieval style battlefield (this being the image Tolkien goes for) was complete without bowstrings being busy. The point is that the Elves (who are supposed to be particularly good shots) could have a merry time pot-shotting Dwarves, and because the Dwarves were wearing hauberks that would hurt rather more than in the scenario you were imagining, with them in plate armour of some sort. Bodkin-pointed war-arrows were purposely designed for going through mail.

    Testudo was simply an example of the appearance of a close formation. And shield wall differs from testudo simply by the lack of overhead shields.
    And by what would then happen when a bunch of guys who are known to be good shots and who have the high ground (remember what I said about the tactical situation?) can happily rain down arrows on top of said shield wall. That would hurt. Not a good situation to be in. It's not like they're all on the flat, just standing there - there's a specific situation that's described.

    Correct, Dwarves probably did not have plate mail. Neither did the vast majority of Middle Ages soldiers. Mostly only knights did. And still hauberked shielded close formations fared well against skirmish archers historically apart from some choice cases I mentioned when the enemy achieved significant tactical advantage.
    First, there is no such actual thing as 'plate mail', that's an FRPG term. Second, it's not a matter of 'probably', it's definitely not because it's described that they're wearing mail.

    Also correct, but in our case Men/Elves did not have such flexibility. They were positioned in a valley terminating with the Gates, so essentially between two mountain spurs of whichever size. Their main objective was to prevent the Dwarves from reaching the gates *at all costs* as both Bard and Thranduil realized. So they were hemmed in a tight corner with the Dwarves advancing in a tight formation with the express target of reaching the gates. Dwarves didn't have to chase the enemy across the valley, all they needed was to reach the entrance in a straight line. The clash was inevitable. And once the Dwarves reach the enemy lines (not too long since they are already marching along one spur) skirmishers cannot fire effectively with their allies being in the mix.
    Two opposing shield-walls isn't a 'mix'; if you're thinking of some confused mass fight with everyone mixed in together, you've been watching too many movies. The skirmishers could continue to harry the Dwarves' flanks and rear no matter what happened because the Dwarves had got no support. And what's supposedly stopping the Dwarves being flanked, as Bard had pointed out they were vulnerable to being by virtue of where they were?

    Have you got something against the prospect of the Dwarves being spanked, or what? Oh noes, they're Dwarves, they can't lose to Elves!

    (Bearing in mind these are Tolkien's Elves, emphatically not a bunch of wimps but scary!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by bambubambubambu View Post
    Agree to disagree with you on this. But Yikes! That's a dismal and dark outcome in place of what was already a pretty dark chapter in what's supposed to be a story for kids. Glad Tolkien didn't go that way.
    Of course it was dark and dismal, which was why Thranduil hadn't wanted to start the fight. That's why it was such a good thing that the Goblins turned up when they did. Providential, you might say.

    It wouldn't have been the first time that the Dwarves had fought a war over a dragon-hoard, either (as LOTR's detailed background has it).

  23. #23
    This is devolving into too much disjointed details. Let's sum up.

    * Rad, whatever the difference in opinion, losing patience, calling names, etc. is rude, so let's keep it calm and/or agree to disagree. I am listening to your arguments and simply pointing out what I agree with or not.

    * Whatever Bard or any other participant thought would happen and what would actually happen are two different things. Even the best generals misjudge sometimes and Bard never commanded anything before.

    * All history shows that while of course archers always play a significant role in most battles and account for a significant number of enemy casualties, they had a *critical* part to play in only a handful of very special cases. Mostly that happened when archery made a quality leap forward and infantry haven't yet had time to adjust technologically. Our case is different. No amount of archers can easily defeat a mobile heavily armoured infantry in such a tight spot without heavy fortifications.

    * The situation is still as follows:
    - Men/Elves stand in the valley blocking the Gates. They also have some archers/skirmishers on a mountain spur. They have a certain number advantage. They also consist half of Lake-town people with no combat experiance. Their paramount objective is to stop the Dwarves from reaching the Gates. Once the Dwarves come inside, Men/Elves have already lost. They cannot take the Mountain then and more reinforcements shall come from the Iron Hills. Hence Men/Elves must hold position in a relatively narrow space at all costs.
    - Dwarves are somewhat smaller in number. They are exceedingly strong (for their height) and heavily armed and armoured. Strong steel hauberks and steel mesh covering the entire body, iron shod, steel caps, shields, swords and mattocks. Closely formationed since their goal is to press forth to the entrance. Once they cross the small distance to the Gates, they essentially won. They can hold and/or come inside and fortify at will. They are already close marching along the mountain spur.

    This is the tactical situation from the book itself. In other circumstances and with other goals for the opposing sides, the Dwarves might have been defeated relatively easy indeed with a good tactical command. Not in this case.
    Last edited by Egorvlad; Feb 18 2014 at 05:48 PM.

  24. #24
    I are with you Egorvlad, but there's one more thing to it. The news of Smaug dead quickly became wide-spread and others would soon join the party. I think that goblin or other arrival is certain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Egorvlad View Post
    This is devolving into too much disjointed details. Let's sum up.

    * Rad, whatever the difference in opinion, losing patience, calling names, etc. is rude, so let's keep it calm and/or agree to disagree. I am listening to your arguments and simply pointing out what I agree with or not.
    'Calling names'? Nope.

    * Whatever Bard or any other participant thought would happen and what would actually happen are two different things. Even the best generals misjudge sometimes and Bard never commanded anything before.
    That's a pretty weak argument given that there's no real reason to doubt what he says. Thranduil's objection to ambushing the Dwarves then and there was a moral one, not that he didn't think it would work.

    * All history shows that while of course archers always play a significant role in most battles and account for a significant number of enemy casualties, they had a *critical* part to play in only a handful of very special cases. Mostly that happened when archery made a quality leap forward and infantry haven't yet had time to adjust technologically. Our case is different. No amount of archers can easily defeat a mobile heavily armoured infantry in such a tight spot without heavy fortifications.
    They didn't have to do it alone, because they weren't alone. It was a bad situation for the Dwarves to find themselves in, because once they engaged the forces ahead of them that they could see they'd then be flanked not just by 'some' but the many archers and spearmen who were hidden amongst the rocks on their right flank. That was why Bard had called them fools, that they were going to take a pasting if they were attacked on two sides simultaneously (especially as they weren't rested, either!) and they'd walked right into it. The Dwarves weren't used to fighting above ground, and it showed (another thing that Bard commented on).

    So rather than things being equal, the situation as described did not look at all good for the Dwarves. That was the point, that it was a tragedy in the making and it'd have started a war that would have been far worse, not that the two sides were evenly matched then and there. Just as well for them the Goblins turned up.

 

 
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