Hearing some audience comments about Legend of the Galactic Heroes, I'd have to agree with them. LoGH can get awfully cheesy sometimes with its clichés of the dying Lt. Cmdr. Lap thinking of his fiancée, or whenever Reinhard and Wenli say, "Oh, whatever will that man do to foil my plans?" Hearing that over and over makes one wonder if these two will some day meet in a retirement home and spend the rest of their lives playing chess and making a compliment whenever someone gets his butt kicked.
What LoGH is good for is its depiction of military strategy and tactics. The Astate Encounter is an excellent demonstration of one of the principle rules of strategy: never, never, ever split your forces (unless you have a damn good reason to do it. One thing about military rules is that there are always exceptions). Reinhard opened with a brilliant gamble in the vein of Alexander and Frederick the Great. He attacked first with courage and drive. The Alliance had unwisely split its armada into three fleets of about 13,000 apiece. By not banding together and making themselves into the proverbial immovable object, they allowed Reinhard to use his own force of 20,000 to overwhelm two of the individual fleets. The use of superior numbers and concentration of firepower is a key aspect of strategy.
Yang obviously knew this when he advised his admiral to link with the 6th Fleet and then use their own numerical superiority to crush Reinhard. But if Yang is so smart, then the Alliance admirals must be stupid: and it's an important part of the plot that they never listen to him so that he can act unhappy whenever he's being ignored, the audience can snicker at the Alliance's stupidity, and Reinhard can say: "It's a good thing that man never gets command, otherwise I wouldn't win all the time."
Reinhard then crushes the 4th and 6th Fleets and comes in on Yang's 2nd Fleet. Finding resistance tougher and his own troops tired from the previous fighting, Reinhard decides to make a spindle formation and split the enemy's center. This is a risky gamble. If Reinhard succeeds, he splits the enemy in half. With poorly disciplined troops and an unimaginative commander, this would generally result in a rout from the battlefield. If it doesn't succeed, then Reinhard could find his butt in a sling as a result of one word: Cannae.
In about 219 or 218 B.C., one of the world's Grand Captains, a Carthigian named Hannibal (you know, the guy who marched the elephants over the Alps), whupped the Romans' ass at the Battle of Cannae in northern Italy. The numerically superior Romans of about 50 or 60 thousand formed themselves into a giant square and assaulted the thinner lines of the Carthigians. Hannibal faked a pullback in the center and then held his ground while his wings wrapped around the Romans' sides and accomplished a three-side envelopment. The short of the short is: 40,000 Romans died. The principle of the victory was that Hannibal was able to use all of his troops to fight on all flanks while masses of Romans were trapped in the center of the square and thus useless. Thus, a demonstration of using as much of your strength while limiting your opponent's ability to do the same. To this day, Cannae remains the idea of a perfect battle.
Maybe Yang didn't know about Hannibal and Cannae, but he didn't try to pull it off. Instead, he split his forces, let Reinhard pass through, and rejoined to attack the Imperial's back. The problem is, it only provided a fleeting advantage. Yang could have performed the Cannae maneuver or simply had his ships sandwich Reinhard's by moving his split flanks together with Reinhard in the middle. But Yang probably had good reasons for not going for the kill. For one thing, he didn't have enough ships to pull off a decisive victory and would have to be content with surviving. Knowing that Reinhard's ships were tired, he made the correct assumption that the Imperial forces would pull out instead of continue in what became a battle of attrition. Considering that the Alliance probably has more resources, fighting a battle of attrition would also favor the Alliance, as it worked for the Russians against the Germans in WWII.
Nonetheless, I'm disappointed that Yang settled for the "snakes eating each other's tails" formation of battle because it accomplished nothing. Oh well. I'm not the script writer. But had the battle continued, it would have been a Pyrrhic victory for one side or the other. (Pyrrhus was another ancient general who beat the Romans in a battle but lost his whole army in the process, and thus had nothing left at the end.)
Another quick point is the Alliance's spin doctors' take on the encounter. It may have seemed like a complete lie to claim a victory for the Alliance after Astate, but technically, the side which holds the field is the victor, and thus Yang technically, tactically won. But kudos go to Reinhard for killing off the enemy at a ratio of 10:1 and claiming the strategic victory.
Next week: Yang and Reinhard say "that man" over and over again. We continue to wonder what's up with that Kircheis guy. People laugh whenever anything remotely German turns up. And what's up with that Empire fortress and it's super "Thor's Hammer" cannon? Remind anyone of, say, the Death Star?
Use the Force, Yang! Use the Force!