Camping on top of hills - good or bad?

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Camping on top of hills - good or bad?

Unread postby ZhangBaihu » Wed Aug 11, 2004 6:57 am

There has always been a hypocrisy in ROTK in my mind as it pertains to camping on top of hills.

At Jieting, Ma Su loses because he arrived first and decided to station himself on the high ground. Yet the Art of War and most other ancient war doctrines state that one should ALWAYS take the high ground before your enemy can.

It is said Ma Su made a tactical blunder by claiming the high ground, but everywhere else it says to do just that. Which is right?
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Unread postby robbyjo » Wed Aug 11, 2004 7:24 am

It's because:
a. A strategy doesn't mean it's applicable in all situations
b. Zhuge Liang told Ma Su that Jie Ting is a VERY hard place to defend because it has no wall and no natural defenses
c. Sima Yi's forces are 250K and Ma Su's only 25K plus Gao Xiang's 10K
d. Wang Ping's comment sums up the flaw: "If we camp on the road and build a strong wall, the enemy cannot possibly get past. If we abandon this for the hill, and the troops of Wei come in force, we shall be surrounded, and how then be safe? [...] Now I have studied this hill carefully, and it is a critical spot. If we camp thereon and the enemy cut off our water supply, we shall have a mutiny."

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Unread postby Six_and_Up » Wed Aug 11, 2004 1:07 pm

It is said Ma Su made a tactical blunder by claiming the high ground, but everywhere else it says to do just that. Which is right?


The thing Ma Su did wrong was not necessarily camp on a hill, although thats the blunder that cost him Jieting. It was actually the fact that camping on the hill made his water supply easy to cut off. If he had adequete water supplies then its a possibility that he may have won Jieting or at least his troops performed better.
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Unread postby SixWingGryffin » Wed Aug 11, 2004 1:49 pm

I think he also threatened his men with death.
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Unread postby PrimeMinister Bu Zhi » Wed Aug 11, 2004 2:55 pm

Art of War stratagems are appliable to only the right situations. Zhuge Liang himself said never fight up hill(meaning never fight upwards, fight downwards instead) in the Art of War. Yuan Shao at Guan Du is an example. When Cao Cao attacked Wuchao, Yuan Shao used the stratagem of "empty and full" to attack Cao Cao's main camp while he was away. It failed because Cao Cao did not use most of his men to attack Wuchao. Only enough. His camp on the other hand had more men, Yuan Shao entering it makes Cao's camp the "full" and Wuchao the "empty, Cao Cao managed to reverse the situation despite attacking first.
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Unread postby Rommel » Wed Aug 11, 2004 3:56 pm

c. Sima Yi's forces are 250K and Ma Su's only 25K plus Gao Xiang's 10K

If Zhuge Liang knew that JieTing was important & "hard to defend", why did he only dispatch 25k troop there and hoped that they could defeated Sima Yi's 250 k troop? We all know that even Zhuge Liang himself had problem to break through Sima Yi's defense.
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Unread postby robbyjo » Wed Aug 11, 2004 4:11 pm

It's because that if Ma Su were obeying the command, 25K plus Gao Xiang's reinforcement of 10K ought to be enough to repel all Sima Yi's manouver. Look at how he prepare about stuff:
* Ma Su and Wang Ping guard Jie Ting pass (one of the two roads)
* Gao Xiang to Liliu (the other road)
* Wei Yan is behind Gao Xiang's and Ma Su's station, guarding the "throat" of the two passes (i.e. Yangping Pass).

Jie Ting was one way to lead attack to Chang An. The other two was Xie Valley and Gu Valley. ZGL order:
* Zhao Yun and Deng Zhi to go to Gu valley
* He himself will go to Xie valley

So, by looking at how his plan setup, Jie Ting was pretty much intended for a gambit. Or at least stall Sima Yi's forces while ZGL's main army of 200K took a leeway to Chang An.

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Unread postby Rommel » Wed Aug 11, 2004 5:06 pm

i asked the previous question because you said it before that ZGL said to Ma Shu that JieTing was hard to defend due to lack of wall & natural barrier. Then you said it in last post that 25k + 10 k was enough for defence. In conclusion JieTing was not hard to defend because you could hold the charge of 10x numbers of your foce without walls & fortification. Am I missing something here? Moreove Sima Yi didn't face ZGL's main force in Xie Vally and chose to attack JieTing. Was it Sima Yi's tactic or ZGL's idea to avoid Wei's main force?
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Unread postby robbyjo » Wed Aug 11, 2004 5:23 pm

Rommel wrote:i asked the previous question because you said it before that ZGL said to Ma Shu that JieTing was hard to defend due to lack of wall & natural barrier. Then you said it in last post that 25k + 10 k was enough for defence. In conclusion JieTing was not hard to defend because you could hold the charge of 10x numbers of your foce without walls & fortification. Am I missing something here?


It's because if they build a permanent camp and rampart on the path, like Wang Ping did, it should be quite well fortified.

Rommel wrote:Moreove Sima Yi didn't face ZGL's main force in Xie Vally and chose to attack JieTing. Was it Sima Yi's tactic or ZGL's idea to avoid Wei's main force?


Edit: If Ma Su and friends were able to stall Sima Yi's forces long enough, ZGL would've been able to reach Chang An and this would force Sima Yi's forces to withdraw immediately. Read Sima Yi's own comment at the beginning of chapter 95. This was exactly what Zhuge Liang did.

Sima Yi also anticipate ZGL's plan by putting Cao Zhen in Meicheng, which is just ahead of Xie Valley, whereas Sun Li and Xin Pi were guarding Gu Valley.

Sima Yi's take on Jie Ting was essentially a gamble -- but he couldn't believe it in his eyes after seeing Ma Su was doing a blunder...

Edit II: Ah, this conversation sums up pretty well:

Chapter 95 wrote:When Ma Su and Wang Ping had reached Jieting and saw what manner of place it was, Ma Su smiled, saying, "Why was the Prime Minister so extremely anxious? How would the Wei armies dare to come to such a hilly place as this?"

Wang Ping replied, "Though they might not dare to come, we should set our camp at this meeting of many roads."

So Wang Ping ordered his soldiers to fell trees and build a strong stockade as for a permanent stay.

But Ma Su had a different idea.

"What sort of a place is a road to make a camp in? Here is a hill standing solitary and well wooded. It is a heaven-created point of vantage, and we will camp on it."

"You are wrong, Counselor," replied Wang Ping. "If we camp on the road and build a strong wall, the enemy cannot possibly get past. If we abandon this for the hill, and the troops of Wei come in force, we shall be surrounded, and how then be safe?"


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Unread postby Rommel » Wed Aug 11, 2004 6:01 pm

Thanks for your info. Based on what you said, since Sima Yi could observe the enemy back and forward at the same night I could assume that his army was not far away from JieTing. Could he have different option if JieTing was well defended?

What was JieTing in the first place? Was it a name of a city? a mountain? a hill? Why was it strategically important? You said that there were 3 ways leading to Chang An & ZGL was on the other road. Why did losing JieTing threaten ZGL?

You said that water was cut off so Ma Su's army was demoralized. Doesnt water flow from top of hill to bottom? How could Sima Yi stop water flowing back to top :lol: ?

How could a permanent military camp set up on road hold 250k army? There is one possibility. The area is a mountainary area & massive troop movement is impossible but it is also applied to defenders. When the attacking surface is limited to 10 men only it means that for the defenders side it can allow only 10 men showing up at the same area to defend. Or one possibility is that a castle is built between two tall mountains then offenders could have hard time to go around the castle. Based on what I read, when Ma Su set up camp up to hill Sima Yi's army could surround the hill it means the hill is not big or tall enough but Sima Yi's 250 k army could be maneuvered easily. It indicated that the area was big enough for massive troop movement. By the way where were the reserve? Or ZGL didn't prepare for emergency situation?

Thanks for reading
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