B2 High-Intermediate US 54 Folder Collection
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When I did the last episode of Archery Popshots
covering Shogun 2 Total War, there were requests

to cover Rome 2. With even more DLCs and a
massive update that added family trees, made

the tech and skill trees more visually intuitive,
and other user interface changes that actually

made the game bearable to me, this was the
right time to come back to Rome 2. And what

a rich world to explore again.
Unfortunately, covering the history and context
of archery in the entirety of Rome 2 would

be enormous. That would be madness.
This DLC campaign for Rome 2 takes us back
to the Classical period of Ancient Greece.

The Peloponnesian War pits the city-states
of Greece against each other: Athens, Corinth,

Thebes, and of course, Sparta. And while this
period was dominated by hoplite combat, the

bow and arrow were just as well known, and
well recognised in history and legend.

It's almost strange to imagine the Hellenic
world and its ubiquitous use of heavy infantry:

the hoplites, armed with shield, sword and
spear, fighting in the closely packed phalanx

formation, yet struggle to picture where archery
would fit in. At the same time, Greek heroes

and legends were renowned for their archery
skills. The deities Apollo and Artemis were

associated with bows and the hunt. In the
Iliad and the Odyssey, we see renowned bowmen

such as Odysseus – famous for the feat of
shooting through a dozen axe heads. Paris,

prince of Troy, used a bow in combat, and
slew the mighty Achilles with an arrow to

the heel.
In reality, unlike their Persian neighbours,
the Greeks did not widely adopt the bow in

their normal style of warfare. It could be
said that hoplite combat was honourable, and

death in melee was more beautiful than being
killed by an arrow. Some sources and scholars

attribute the low status of the bow and the
archer to this idealism of war.

This didn't mean that the bow was dismissed.
It was a specialised weapon, albeit often

relegated to the lower classes who could not
afford the equipment to fight as a hoplite,

instead fighting as light infantry alongside
javelin throwers and slingers. The Athenians

were known to have maintained a corps of archers,
and archers would see use in siege defence,

though had less of a presence in open battle
and few battles record significant contributions

by archers.
The bows used by the Greeks were simple short
self-bows. Later, illustrations of archers

showed them using a composite recurve bow,
widely recognised as being imported from the

Scythians, a nomadic people who fought from
horseback. Greek bows could shoot over 250m,

though they were more likely ranged with some
accuracy at around 150m, and could shoot accurately

and directly at 50-60m. Notably, records indicate
that Greek archers were outranged by Persian

archers, as was the case with Xenophon's
Ten Thousand, whose archers had to be protected

in formation.
While most of Greece largely did not adopt
the bow in their military, the people of the

island of Crete became specialised archers.
Their skill with the bow was so renowned,

they were hired as mercenaries by Greek city-states,
particularly Sparta, and their archers would

be sought out centuries later by the Romans,
and Cretan archers were present even up to

the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
The Wrath of Sparta mini-campaign focuses
on Greece and the conflict between the major

city-states of Sparta, Athenai, Korinthos
and the Boiotian League. As with real life,

the unit roster is greatly restricted to several
different types of hoplites, along with support

troops such as cavalry and missile infantry.
The balance of power between the missile troops
reflects their real-life counterparts. Javelin

throwers do a lot of damage, but have very
short range and low ammunition. Slingers have

the longest range, but don't do as much
damage as archers, which are probably the

main support unit in your hoplite army.
You can rain arrows onto enemy units. However,
more so here than in the main campaign, the

effect of archers is greatly mitigated by
shields. Arrows simply bounce off the heavily

armoured hoplites, though the light-armoured
hoplites will suffer more attrition damage

over time.
The real damage is in hitting the flanks and
rear. With shields covering the front and

left, only the armour value is used in calculating
damage when shooting at exposed sides, and

from these angles, units of archers can cause
devastating damage, taking a unit of hoplites

down to the last man in several volleys. This
is the key to breaking the deadlock of hoplite

combat: while the infantry hold the line,
the archers run to the flanks. They are even

more effective than cavalry, who are countered
easily by armoured spearmen and are better

suited to chasing down enemy ranged troops.
That's assuming that your archers haven't
already dealt with them. Having 3-4 units

of archers adds a large amount of flexibility
to your army, and I wouldn't dare march

out without them.
It should go without saying that this is probably
not how archers were used historically. In

Greek warfare, if archers were used at all,
it was typically behind the infantry, or sometimes

embedded with the formations and engaging
in short-distance sniping. As light troops,

archers have the historical advantage of being
able to out-run the heavy infantry, but alone

they cannot defeat them. Running forward to
flank was unlikely to be feasible, as that

would require an overview of the battlefield
and instantaneous commands that would be available

to the player, but not a real life commander.
It should also be noted that historically,
the Greeks did not deploy archers in massed

formations. This style of warfare would be
more commonly seen in the medieval times,

especially with the English archers. As devastating
as a volley of arrows would be, Greek armies

were more devoted to infantry combat rather
than investing resources into the highly specialised

archers. The fate of the battle was determined
by which phalanx broke first.

Of course, this is Total War, and we have
the liberty of playing with historical units

in ahistorical ways, and that's what makes
the game fun.

Unlike the original Rome, Rome 2 makes more
of an effort to depict battles in realistic

ways, and you might be surprised to learn
that some of the smaller details are well

Taking a look at the archer's unit model,
we see that the archer uses the simple wooden

self-bow with size and proportion close to
what we see in the source material. The archer

wears an arrow quiver on the left side, and
this might pique your curiosity. Most archers

are more familiar with bags and quivers worn
on the right, but pulling arrows from a cross-body

position would have been plausible. In fact,
historians have identified that light Greek

archers may have carried up to 200 arrows
and shot at a rapid speed – up to 10 aimed

shots per minute. Some depictions also show
archers carrying light shields.

The Cretan archers appear as mercenaries.
On paper, their bows have more range and do

more damage than their regular counterparts.
Their unit model features the linothorax armour,

though this doesn't really help them in
melee. They also seem to use composite bows,

likely derived from the Scythian bows that
appeared from northern tribes. Cretan archers

are able to make use of whistling arrows to
damage morale, and heavy shot to inflict more

damage but at the cost of range and accuracy.
This is particularly devastating against the

heavily armoured hoplites, almost ignoring
all armour. This isn't far from history

– sources make reference to long arrows
with heavy arrowheads that could pierce through

shields and armour, but only at very short

The animations are not very specific, but
we can see that the game roughly shows a conventional

Mediterranean grip, with the first two or
three fingers pulling the string back. The

source material is rather ambiguous, depicting
a “Greek” pinch draw or a Mediterranean

draw of some variant. What is known from historical
sources is that Greek archers drew the string

to the chest, which is exactly what we see
here. Drawing towards the ear or cheek, as

many of us would know today, was more of a
medieval development.

Speaking of animations, Rome 2 has improved
the fluidity of the shooting. For the most

part, archers no longer hold onto the bow
for extended lengths and instead execute the

shot more cleanly. In general, missile units
are more responsive, beginning their shooting

cycles quicker on command and not being stuck
on reload while one archer is out of position.

Considering that archer units are just one
out of many in Rome 2, the game does a reasonably

good job of illustrating them in a battle
environment, and they are fairly well balanced

for gameplay purposes. If there's anything
really missing from the Hellenic campaign,

it's that Greek archers were also known
to be mobile combatants, shooting from kneeling

positions and being more versatile instead
of being static massed archers.

It's interesting how a campaign that focuses
on hoplite combat brings out the importance

of archers and other missile troops. Without
them, battles are long and drawn out – much

like how ancient Greek battles actually were.
By bringing in mobile missile troops, the

player gets to out-play their opponents, risking
their potent but vulnerable archers or slingers

to cause havoc in enemy lines, thinning out
enemy infantry and breaking morale. In fact,

it wouldn't be unusual to see archers accumulate
the most kills in campaign battles. They are

the tilt factor in armies and can make all
the difference in close matches.

Of course, we should be wary that Greek armies
did not shoot volley upon volley of arrows

into the backs of enemy hoplite formations.
That was simply not the Greek way.

That brings us to the end of our first foray
into the Rome 2 franchise. Should we look

further? Post your thoughts in the comments
below. This is NUSensei. As usual, shoot straight,

and aim for your best.
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Archery Popshots | Total War: Rome II: Wrath of Sparta

54 Folder Collection
wei published on December 2, 2018
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