Square Formation
Etw military army square formation
Prerequisite Nothing
Research Points Needed
Building Needed Barracks
Leads To Cadenced Marching
Stream Military, Military
  • Enables infantry square formation
  • Enhances national prestige
Empire Total War - Square Formation

Empire Total War - Square Formation

Square Formation is a Technology and infantry Formation in Empire: Total War and Napoleon: Total War.


A defensive posture for musket-armed infantry units, creating an impassable wall of steel to fend off cavalry attacks.

As the name suggests, this is four two- or three-rank lines of infantry arranged as a hollow square, with everyone facing outwards. It is a version of the obsolete pike "hedgehog", making any cavalry charge a suicidal exercise. Bayonets are fixed to muskets when appropriate and possible.

Forming a square requires good order in the ranks. The outer companies of an infantry unit in line have to "fold back" to form the sides and back of the square, without losing cohesion in the process. The unit colours take up station in the centre, a final rallying point should the square be broken. It is also possible to form larger squares with more than one unit.

The square is, of course, a tempting target for enemy artillery. Whether it is better to form square in the face of cavalry and risk an artillery barrage, or stay in line to mitigate artillery fire and risk a cavalry charge can be a tactical conundrum!

Theoreticians argued infantry could defeat a cavalry charge by firepower alone. Brigadier General Richard Kane (later Military Governor of Gibraltar) remarked, "If a body of Foot have but Resolution and keep their Order, there is no Body of Horse dare adventure within their Fire..." but for him that fire was to be delivered from a square, not a line. He was arguing for discipline as the key to success.

General InformationEdit

As its name implies, square formation causes a regiment to form into a square with soldiers (and bayonets) facing out, granting the regiment a high defensive bonus against charging enemies, particularly cavalry. It takes some time to perform, and when completed, the regiment cannot be ordered to move until it is no longer in square formation. In addition, the regiment suffers a reduction in firepower as only one quarter of the soldiers are available to fire in one direction at any time. Artillery is the most feared weapon against the square formation, as the line infantry concentrate, making them more vulnerable to most types of ordnance. Square formation is not as effective at stopping a cavalry charge as a prepared line of infantry; however, it is a useful countermeasure for cavalry attempting to flank and outmaneuver infantry lines. 

Square formation can be researched very early on in the campaign, and it is usually a valuable technology to research due to the defensive bonuses it grants line infantry against cavalry. Prior to researching square formation, line infantry are highly vulnerable to being flanked by cavalry, and operate best with close support by cavalry or other line infantry. 

Depending on the level of incline and the quality/stamina of the attacking cavalry and infantry, infantry in a square formation may still take substantial damage from a cavalry charge. However, infantry in a prepared square always deal a high amount of damage to the cavalry in turn, particularly if the cavalry gets bogged down. Properly pre-formed squares of fresh troops fighting against cavalry charging uphill take minimal casualties. 

Squares can be formed and deformed fairly quickly, but should still be made in advance as infantry only get the full defense bonus against charges once they have finished forming the square. Although square formation is a powerful tool against charging cavalry, a prepared line of infantry with muskets ready is even better. Square formation is best used when infantry are being flanked or attacked from the rear.

Utilizing square formation increases the regiment's range somewhat, although given the great reduction of firepower, this is generally not a valid alternative to standard rank firing.

Regiments with insufficient numbers are unable to form squares. This is particularly glaring on minimal unit size settings, where losing just a few men can take away use of the ability.

Elephants are cavalry units, but due to their high defense and charge statistics, an elephant formation can basically smash right through a square. In addition, line infantry can utilize Fire by Rank against elephants; thus, a prepared line is a far more effective counter against elephants than square formation.

Only line infantry and their variants may use square formation, and of these, certain types of line infantry (such as Beylik Janissary Musketeers) cannot. All Militia, Skirmishers, Grenadiers, Cavalry, and Artillery are barred from using square formation.

Napoleon: Total WarEdit

Square Formation doesn't require research in Napoleon: Total War and is available by default to all factions. It functions identically to how it did in Empire: Total War. Whereas it were only available to line infantry variants in Empire, grenadiers also have access to Square Formation in this game. Square formation is automatically available from the start of any campaign.

In Napoleon: Total War, where cavalry charges are much more deadly, square formation is perhaps even more important than it was in Empire. Instead of charging headlong into squares as they did in Empire: Total War, cavalry rear and shy when near squares, significantly reducing their damage potential. Even the most powerful cavalry shy against the weakest line infantry formed in a square. Whereas a line infantry regiment could expect to lose half its men to a successful charge normally, losses could amount to single digits when in a prepared square. Infantry are also much more active in shooting from a square than they were in Empire: Total War. In most cases, cavalry cannot charge square formations and hope for a good outcome. Missile cavalry retain the option to use their guns against infantry arrayed in square formation, however, and square formation offers no defense to gunfire. 

Line infantry and grenadiers may only form square formation if there are 49 men in the regiment or more. This makes line infantry more likely to be able to use it, due to their larger number of men per regiment: they need to suffer proportionally more losses in order to lose the ability to use it. The cap of 49 men applies regardless of small, medium, large or ultra unit settings, making square formation progressively more difficult to use as unit settings are made smaller and smaller. A line infantry regiment on ultra settings (160 men), for example, needs to lose over two-thirds of its men before losing access to square formation; a line infantry regiment on medium settings (80 men), on the other hand, loses access before losing even half its men. A line infantry infantry regiment on small settings (40 men), on the other hand, lacks the ability to use square formation altogether.



Square formation in game

Square formation 1227026989 1391

Square formation concept art

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