Of Steel and Pike

by Scipii

The pike, weapon of choice for the Macedonian phalanxes pioneered by Philip of Macedon and feared by many a Rome: Total War general. So cometh Medieval 2: Total War why hath thy pike not seen a resurgence akin to that seen in Medieval history? Derided by many as unreliable and useless for anything more than defending choke points, today we shall examine the enigma that is the Medieval 2: Total War Pikeman.

So why do so many generals consider them unreliable in comparison to other types of soldiers? Well once the Pikemen's "hedgehog" of pikes has been penetrated by enemy soldiers the Pikemen are, usually, as good as dead. So the Pikeman's tendency while locked in combat to abandon his pike in favour of his sidearm, usually a sword, often heralds the company's doom.

Due to this very flaw many generals do not persist with Pikemen when a wealth of other options exist. After all, why bother attempting to master the pike when it is often easier to persist with dismounted knights. However, with some practice we can minimize our Pikemen's flaws and utilise them both on the defensive and offensive, as per history.

So how do we minimise the weaknesses of pikes in Medieval 2: Total War? Well with a bit of experimentation it has been established that pikes can be vastly improved by co-operating with another company of pikes in unison. So as a basic rule to remember before each battle, two pikes are much better then just one, and always deployed with spear wall enabled unless running is a priority. Though, there is much we must yet learn before we can taste a glorious victory.

Surprisingly critical to our success is how we micromanage our Pikemen's Guard Mode status. Perhaps surprisingly, Guard Mode can have a large affect on the performance of our Pikemen. Without Guard Mode on our Pikemen will act aggressively and engage in what could be referred to as the "Push of pikes". While with Guard Mode enabled our Pikemen will act defensively by maintaining their position and the structure of the pike wall at the expense of offensive power, which is useful when receiving charges. Yet all our Guard Mode management will be for naught without learning how to properly deploy our Pikemen.

In Medieval 2: Total War when using Pikemen we must adapt our thinking and not think of two pike companies as operating side by side like we did previously as with Phalanxes in Rome: Total War. Rather we have to think of them as two controllable elements representing our desired pike square, one company the front half of the pike square and the other company the rear half. Optimally, we want these two pike companies deployed three to four men deep, with one company staggered directly behind the other.

Alternatively we could deploy our Pikemen on top of each other for an extremely condensed, yet effective, pike square, but we run the risk of taking greater casualties from ranged weapons like arrows or artillery. However, this deployment technique comes in handy to reduce casualties when faced with charging shock, or heavily armoured, troops which may be able to initially penetrate our pike wall due to their momentum. If the enemy does breach our pike wall there are a few tricks we can use to get our Pikemen to re-assume their pikes; such as giving them a Halt order, or toggling the Guard Mode and Spear Wall abilities.

Whilst a well deployed, coordinated, and micro-managed pike square can be an incredible force in both single-player and mutliplayer. Just as with Phalanxes in Rome: Total War, we should never neglect the importance of supporting our pikes whilst they carry out their orders. So it is vital to protect their flanks whilst engaged and to try and minimize damage from enemy skirmishers due to their usually low defence rating, Scotland excluded.

Take this advice and hone your skills on the battlefield and prove to the doubters that the pike is very much alive given the time, effort, and understanding needed to master its use. After all, why should you suffer the tyranny of expensive dismounted knights when you could perfect the pike and spend that saved gold on our supporting soldiers and their upgrades during multiplayer games.

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