「奇岩会戦」 (Kigan Kaisen)
“Battle at the Unusual Rock Formation”
After ratcheting up the political machinations and international competition for weeks on end, it only makes sense for Altair to finally explore the more “personal” side of geopolitics. When diplomacy fails and negotiations stall the only option left is force of arms, and in that scenario there is no room for hesitancy. Altair might be all about the strategy, but it certainly has not forgotten about the tactics.
While not the most objectively entertaining of battle scenes, Balaban’s attack was particularly interesting for all the little things it featured. We saw everything from the importance of formations to the effectiveness of technology and even the art of deception. The critical elements, however, lay in the differences of leadership. Mahmut won this battle not because of any superior strategy (at its core it was remarkably basic), but because Balaban never tried anticipating his enemy’s. Reading one’s opponent is a ubiquitous concept in more than just warfare, but it’s repeatedly brought up because it’s true: correctly predicting your opponent is what wins you the game. Balaban lost because he forgot this key aspect, single mindedly focused on selfishly obtaining (vain)glory and honour while completely discounting Mahmut. Sometimes pure force of will can overcome such things, but not when you deliberately handicap yourself in the name of fame. Because Balaban chose pride over efficiency he paid the ultimate price. Winning through deception and trickery may not be pretty, but the objective of war is never aesthetic appeal—it’s victory.
Not to be discounted though is Mahmut’s own role in the affair. Balaban may have screwed himself over with his delusions of grandeur, but Mahmut ultimately gave him the opportunity to indulge, and did so with style. Seriously, Mongol-style smoke screens, feigned retreats, and taunting of the enemy? Please Altair, I can only take so much in one sitting. This, however, doesn’t include the very obvious inspiration drawn from the battle of Cannae, complete with double envelopment and bolstered concave infantry lines. Sure it might have been referenced a little too heavily (even Hannibal had a smoke screen), but I’m not about to turn my nose up at how well it played out. Not only has Mahmut now proven himself a force to be reckoned with, he has also upstaged Zaganos by both defeating the main ringleader and doing so with no external support. Whether Zaganos likes Mahmut or not (it’s not entirely clear), Mahmut is going to get all the accolades and likely return to being a fulltime pasha—the spymaster probably won’t appreciate that too much. Plus with a new pair of well-placed friends and a free hand to decide the fate of the remaining dependency sultans, Mahmut right now has more power than he knows what to do with. Once the kid finishes cleaning up the mess and returns back home, it will be incredibly interesting seeing what the Stratocracy’s council has to say to its banished member.
With the civil war arc more or less complete and Mahmut on his way back to a position of authority (probably), it’s quite unclear where Altair plans on heading next. Turkiye may have resolved its internal unrest, but by having upset a ravenous empire and thwarted Louis’ personal ambitions yet again, you can bet the drums of war will not remain silent for long. Mahmut’s redemption ensures it.