Team Alive knew enough about Team Dead to guess that the Dothraki faced a kind of infantry that they had never encountered before; one without fear and thus invulnerable to shock and flanking. It was not wholly unreasonable to think that the world’s most disciplined infantry might hold Team Dead for long enough for either the cavalry (had it survived) or the dragons to have a substantial impact. Team Dead had a much better sense of the disposition of its forces on the battlefield, making this an obvious maneuver. Whether because of a failure of planning or of execution, the Night King did not spring this trap. The brief fight between Rhaegal and Viserion was inconclusive before Drogon arrived to tip the balance. Cavalry formations commonly abandoned the battlefield to pursue objectives distinct from those of their commanding officers. While Team Alive lacked a clear plan for how to bring the Faceless Man (or woman, in this case) together with the principals of Team Dead, the mere presence of such a killer offered an obvious, and in this case decisive, advantage for Team Alive. The second layer was the walls of Winterfell itself; the third, a variety of obstacles within the castle. Then listen to recaps with June Thomas, Sam Adams, Dan Kois, and other Slatesters every Monday. The Battle Of Winterfell in the latest Game Of Thrones instalment, The Long Night, is one of the hugest TV experiences ever set to screen.. Team Alive lacked the infrastructure for producing wildfire, which was of limited utility in a battle against infantry in any case. The views expressed here are the personal views of Farley and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or the Army War College on the Battle of Winterfell. Anti-dragon missiles represented one of Team Dead’s asymmetric advantages. You can cancel anytime. In short, the infantry branch of Team Dead did as well as could be reasonably expected. Each of those Walkers carried an ice spear that posed a mortal threat to Rhaegal, and a trade would have gone very badly for Team Alive. As it was, Team Dead simply overran the advance ranks of Team Alive’s infantry without bothering overmuch about flanking maneuvers. It didn’t work out, but the Unsullied were disciplined enough to hold together and cover the retreat of much of Team Alive. These missiles made Team Alive’s decision to use dragons in a ground support role extremely dangerous, especially without good intelligence about the disposition of the Walkers. I’d keep this is the same but I’d only have Dany actually do it. If my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle then what? You’ve run out of free articles. Only A True Stranger Things Fan Can Score 20/20 On This Quiz! All rights reserved. Indeed, every decision to use dragon fire to support the infantry was fraught with peril, as it represented a potential opportunity for ambush by either the Night King or his White Walkers. And after the cavalry charge failed, the artillery quickly fell victim to Team Dead’s infantry assault. Team Alive’s use of cavalry has received harsh criticism from analysts, in part because of the near-complete annihilation of the force within minutes of the beginning of the battle. Seen on Sky News; featured in The Guardian, NY Times, The Independent and more. Even then, however, their utility was limited; cavalry often succeeds by disrupting supply lines and ambushing foraging parties, and Team Dead needed neither of these. The success of a cavalry attack against infantry requires either flanking (hitting a formation on its side while some other group “fixes” its front) or a shocking frontal assault that disrupts the formation. They’re carving straight into their lines killing hundreds upon hundreds of dead and yet, they keep coming. The Night King could solve his tactical problem in two ways. So Dany’s swooping around setting things on fire and we get into the nitty gritty of that fight outside Winterfell and things going progressively worse for the heroes. Team Dead entered this battle with massive advantages in every category other than cavalry and dragons. Team Dead’s use of infantry was unimaginative but effective. The idea of hitting Team Dead just before the charge might make sense with the destructive power of World War I artillery, but trebuchets and catapults simply couldn’t supply sufficient firepower to put a dent in dismounted infantry in a pre-modern context. As noted above, however, this seems to have the unfortunate effect of also reducing the Night King’s visibility, as he struggles to intercept either of the living dragons in an advantageous situation and can never bring those dragons under fire from his own anti-dragon spearmen. In either case, cavalry runs free and kills until the infantry can pull itself back together. We should be clear here about Team Alive’s strategy; it needed to induce a fight in order to avoid the threat of a prolonged siege. Each of the dozen trebuchets flung a giant rock into the night, hoping to bowl over a fair amount of wights. A better strategy would have placed the artillery behind the infantry, or better yet inside the walls of Winterfell, where it could have continued firing for a much longer duration. Send me updates about Slate special offers. In the Battle of Winterfell, we saw these used briefly and ineffectively. The Night King had one dragon to Team Alive’s two. But having a dragon means that you can lose a dragon, and Viserion became a focus for Team Alive early in the fight. This left the cavalry immobile and largely defenseless against attacks from every side. The Night King’s aerial ambush of Drogon and Rhaegal went badly, as Viserion quickly lost momentum after a straight vertical attack, leaving Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen with improved situational awareness and an altitude advantage. All contents © 2020 The Slate Group LLC. At the Battle of Winterfell, Team Dead’s infantry simply absorbed the greater part of the Dothraki cavalry without breaking and running. Team Alive had a Faceless Man, an assassin trained on the other side of the Narrow Sea. Team Alive would have been well-advised to develop multiple defensible redoubts within Winterfell that would have been difficult to scale or breach. Commanders Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow rode Drogon and Rhaegal, respectively, and had a two-to-one numerical advantage over Team Dead. Fear of being attacked from two sides induces infantry to break and flee, just as fear of being overrun causes infantry to throw down their weapons and run. Because this show was genuinely brilliant in the past. Team Alive would have anticipated this, which is probably one reason it didn’t waste excessive efforts against protecting from breaches. Boiling oil might have made the wights more irritable but probably would not have slowed their advance. And it makes me so, so sad. Although it’s not clear that Team Alive had a well-thought out plan for the cavalry charge, it may have believed that it could take advantage of the lack of discipline of Team Dead (which did not fight in tight phalanxes or with standardized weapons) in order to reach and attack the “middle management” of White Walkers. Not a major change, you camp everyone out in front of Winterfell but you illuminate the battlefield ahead of you with a series of big burning torches. For other battles taking place at Winterfell, see Battle of Winterfell (disambiguation). However, as with much historical air combat, Team Alive could not simply force a favorable engagement against Team Dead; the Night King could either avoid combat entirely or could rely on his army’s proven anti-air defenses. I have to accept this nonsensical battle as canon. Then, and only then, you have the Dothraki flanking from the sides. Team Dead entered the battle with a huge numerical advantage, an army consisting of soldiers with no fear of death, an undead dragon, and no logistical footprint. Had Daenerys Targaryen simply instructed Drogon to land near the Night King and either tear him to pieces or hold him until Jon Snow arrived with Valyrian steel, the battle might have ended much sooner. But the mistake was made in the days before the Battle of Winterfell, not in the minutes before the charge. None of this was a bad idea, and the concept was certainly better thought out than a simple retreat to the walls. Boom, you got your strategy right and it still wasn’t enough. Jon knows he has to wait for the Night King. The final redoubt lay in the crypts, which could only be attacked through a single, easily defensible door (until, that is, the ancestors of the Starks rose to the Night King’s summons). His reanimation trick created additional infantry, sparing him the trouble of melee combat with Jon Snow and creating a variety of problems for Team Alive. Alexander the Great employed a variant of this strategy at the Battle of Gaugamela. The giant simply kicked the gate in and started throwing everyone around with this huge log. 1. We also know from ancient and medieval sources that commanders struggled to keep even experienced cavalry under control. If they had moved right or left in search of Team Dead’s flanks, they would have run the risk of being flanked themselves (Team Dead also had cavalry, and its infantry was fast and fearless) or destroyed by Viserion and the Night King. Most armchair analysis of the battle thus far, particularly on social media, has concentrated on the mistakes made by Team Alive, to the exclusion both of a careful account of Team Dead’s errors and of an appreciation for why Team Alive made the decisions it did.