Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VIII

“Lord Cerwyn, Ser Wylis Manderly, Harrion Karstark, four Freys. lord Hornwood is dead and I fear Roose Bolton escaped us. The Stark boy was not with them, my lord. They say he crossed at the Twins with the great part of his horse, riding hard for Riverrun.”

Synopsis: Tyrion arrives at the Lannister campsite to find out he’s been assigned to the vanguard come the battle. After spending a night with Shae, he is rudely awakened to find that the Stark host is marching on them. The Battle of the Green Fork is fought, with the Starks being driven off with substantial casualties. However, Robb Stark isn’t there…

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

Tyrion VIII contains two events of note: the Battle of the Green Fork and Tyrion meeting Shae. I’ll discuss the two in reverse order, since I have a lot more to say about the Greek Fork and don’t want to jump back and forth.


Needless to say, the difference between BookShae and ShowShae is staggering. The book version is introduced in a way that is meant to remind the reader and reflect on Tyrion’s relationship with Tysha (and women in general). She’s described as “slim, dark-haired, no more than eighteen by the look of her,” whereas Tysha is described as “dark-haired, slender, with a face that would break your heart…lowborn, half-starved, unwashed…yet lovely,” and was around 14 years old when Tyrion met her. After they first have sex,  “a song filled his head…a song I learned as a boy,” the song he associates with Tysha. And with hindsight from how their relationship will end, you can see how important this connection to Tysha is to get Tyrion to the place where, driven by trauma and rage, he murders her and his father.

Likewise, the relationship that Tyrion wants isn’t just the “girlfriend experience” he asks for in the show.- It’s explicitly described that Tyrion’s relationship with Shae is based on his disability: “Be certain that you tell her who I am, and warn her of what I am…there was a look the girls got in their eyes sometimes when they first beheld the lordling they’d been hired to pleasure…a look that Tyrion Lannister did not ever care to see again.” Indeed, Tyrion tests this with his wordplay about her former paramour and reacts to her nickname of “my giant of Lannister” with pleasure, remarking that “for a time, she almost made him believe it.” This is why Shae’s perjured testimony about Tyrion’s treason hurts far less than the revelations about his sexual practices and especially that nick-name.

The War of Five Kings – The Battle of the Green Fork

On to the battle – and what a battle this is. Re-reading this chapter has been a fascinating experience, because this battle made absolutely no sense to me the first time I read it. Indeed, for the longest time, I was under the misunderstanding that this battle was a contested east-west crossing of the Green Fork even though the battle takes place on a north-south orientation, such was my confusion. Now that I have re-read the chapter, I understand it much more clearly and I think the confusion is intentional for several reasons. I have to thank Brynden BFish for his excellent work on the battle itself and the question of Roose’s treason, which helped to crystallize some of my inchoate thoughts. I hope my analysis adds to his work, as for once I don’t have a contrary opinion.

To begin with, I am only further convinced of my theory that Roose Bolton deliberately botched this battle. Re-reading the chapter’s description of the pre-battle operations, we learn two things: first, Brynden Tully’s mission to ensure that “Addam Marbrand…will not know when we split” was absolutely successful, as the Lannisters learn from “Ser Addam’s outriders [that] the Stark host has moved south from the Twins…Lord Frey’s levies have joined them. They are likely no more than a day’s march north of us.” In other words, Stark scouting operations on the right bank of the Green Flank don’t seem to have failed. This is confirmed by the second fact, which is that it’s not the case that Marbrand detected Roose on his night march. Rather, when “the horns called through the night, wild and urgent, a cry that said hurry, hurry, hurry,” the Lannister host was *surprised* by the movement and only discovered Bolton’s forces when they saw “his host…less than a mile north of here, forming up in battle array.” This last point is crucial.

credit to Jon Gilbert

The entire point of a night march is to move at full speed to get into contact with an unexpected enemy as quickly as possible. You don’t stop a mile away to draw up in formation and offer a set-piece battle and give your larger opponent a chance to mobilize; you slam into your enemy as quickly as you can, using the disorganization and shock of the attack to carry the day. This is born out in a number of historical examples:

  • The Battle of Lincoln in 1141 A.D (one of the major turning points in “the Anarchy”) – Earl Robert of Gloucester “cunningly concealed his purpose all the way from Gloucester to Lincoln, keeping the whole army in uncertainty, except for a very few, by taking an indirect route… he resolved to risk a battle at once, and swam across the racing current of the river mentioned above with all his men.” No pause to form up into battle array; Gloucester piled straight into battle straight across a contested river crossing and crushed King Stephen’s army between his army and the garrison of Lincoln castle.
  • The Battle of Falkirk in 1298 C.E – in which Edward I triumphed over William Wallace, began with a night march in which the left battalion of the English forces slammed straight into the enemy’s knights and archers, requiring King Edward’s personal intervention to reorder his disorganized cavalry which had broken their peers but failed to break the Scottish  infantry’s schiltron formation; that task would devolve to the English archers who massacred the tightly-packed Scottish pikemen.
  • The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 C.E – began with a night march of Tokugawa’s Eastern Army literally stumbling into Ishida Mitsunari’s army due to a dense fog that had masked the positions of the two armies.
  • The Battle of Culloden in 1746 C.E – started with a night march in which two-thirds of the Jacobite army mounted a night attack despite orders to the contrary because the messenger carrying those orders missed them in the dark.

Bolton’s actions here have no explanation, given his experience as a commander and competence later displayed when fighting for his own House. His pause almost a mile away to form up into battle gave the Lannisters crucial time to mobilize their forces; had he simply kept marching, the Starks would have fallen on a sleeping army with no opportunity to get themselves into line and under chain of command, and thus unable to carry out their plan. However, this is only Exhibit A in my case against Roose Bolton. 

thanks to Brynden BFish for finding this image that actually made sense of the battle for me.

Tywin’s Bloodless (and Bloody) Plan

It’s interesting that Tyrion somewhat misunderstands Tywin’s plan in this chapter (a sign of his inexperience, given how quickly Tyrion will learn). While Tyrion assumes that the decision to place his mountain men in the vanguard is intended to “rid himself of his embarrassing get for good,” Tywin’s actual objective here is to leverage the “lack [of] discipline” of Tyrion’s men, with Tyrion’s possible death a mere bonus: “I put the least disciplined men on the left, yes. I anticipated that they would break. Robb Stark is a green boy, more like to be brave than wise. I’d hoped that if he saw our left collapse, he might plunge into the gap, eager for a rout. Once he was fully committed, Ser Kevan’s pikes would wheel and take him in the flank, driving him into the river while I brought up the reserve.” Now, I don’t think that Tywin ranks among the great generals of Westeros – most of his early victories seem to have taken place against enemies he vastly outnumbered, and he’s beaten by Edmure Tully despite Edmure’s general lack of skill – but this chapter shows that he’s a skilled commander, who understands how to make use of his particular forces

George R.R Martin’s intricate detailing of the Lannister line of battle (that Brynden BFish does a great job on) is not matched with any level of detail on the Northern troops – a sign that Martin is up to something. We learn that Tyrion’s “uncle would lead the center…the foot archers arrayed themselves into three long lines, to east and west of the road, and stood calmly stringing their bows. Between them, pikemen formed squares; behind were rank on rank of men-at-arms with spear and sword and axe. Three hundred heavy horse surrounded Ser Kevan and the lords bannermen Lefford, Lydden, and Serrett with all their sworn retainers.” The right flank, “was all cavalry, some four thousand men, heavy with the weight of their armor. More than three quarters of the knights were there, massed together like a great steel fist.” The reserve is unusually large, “a huge force, half mounted and half foot, five thousand strong,” meaning that the 16,000 Northmen are going to slam into a front line of 15,000 before Tywin plunges that reserve in like a dagger.

The left flank is put up against the riverbank, “the left of the left. To turn their flank, the Starks would need horses that could run on water…this wing too was all cavalry, but where the right was a mailed fist of knights and heavy lancers, the vanguard was made up of the sweepings of the west,” lighter cavalry and a deliberate easy target. Indeed, I would argue it’s something of an obvious trap – the vanguard of a medieval army is the leading force and tasked with the toughest fighting, and in an army the size of Tywin’s, one would expect it to be much larger than a mere 5% of the total army.

The plan is quite simple: the right holds against the Stark left, the center gets ready to contain the Stark breakthrough, the reserve is placed to drive Stark’s army against the river. A pity it doesn’t actually happen that way.

The Battle and Bolton’s (Lack of a) Strategy

Part of the reason that it doesn’t happen that way is that Roose’s actions on the battlefield makes little military sense. To begin with, we have Exhibit B in my case: the question of why in hell Roose is attacking a force that contains at least 7,500 heavy cavalry (Marbrand’s 4,000 are three-quarters of the total knights, plus the 300 around Kevan, plus the 2,500 in the reserve) and 1,000 light cavalry on the left flank when he has around 600 cavalry – and why he’s attacking at all. The Northern attack on the Lannister left flank is described as “boiling over the tops of the hills, ” and Kevan’s assault is described as having “pushed the northerners against the hills.” Given the enormous defensive advantage given to disciplined infantry fighting from the high ground, especially when fighting heavy cavalry, Bolton had the perfect opportunity to eke out an unlikely victory by retaining the high ground and forcing the Lannisters to attack, an opportunity he squanders without cause or benefit. Moreover, Roose’s main action – the attack on the Lannister left – involves only infantry, “advancing with measured tread behind a wall of shields and pikes,” rather than sending in his limited cavalry to open up a gap that his infantry could exploit against the Lannister center. 

We can see the inappropriateness of this tactic almost immediately: the Stark attack never lands, because the Lannister left is fast enough to counter-charge first, forcing the Karstark infantry into a slapdash schiltron. This shield wall is easily broken by the Mountain and the mountain men (great band name, by the way), and then the Stark right is forced into a chaotic retreat made all the worse once the Lannister center and reserve is brought in to finish the job.

In other words, Roose Bolton is doing the exact opposite of what the Saxon army of Harold Godwinson did to try to win the battle of Hastings – take the high ground, which can be easily held by a disciplined shield wall of infantry against heavy cavalry trying to charge up-hill and avoid charging into feigned retreats, where the superior mobility of cavalry can be used against slower infantry. No experienced infantry commander would make this mistake, especially once he laid eyes on his enemy’s dispositions.

Exhibit C is the mysterious absence of much of the Northern army. As Brynden BFish has noted, the Flayed Man of House Bolton isn’t seen on the field, despite the fact that it makes up a full quarter of their numbers. I would point to additional absences that make little sense: the first is the absence of the Northern cavalry in the fight, given how crucial they would have been to making the attack on the left actually succeed. The second is the absence of the Northern archers; the Northern infantry is described without exception as being composed of spearmen operating in shield walls when it should have quite a few archers given that it’s the whole of the Stark foot. The third is the total absence of any description of the North’s left flank engaging in the battle at all (and the relative absence of the North’s center, which we only hear about later in the battle when Kevan pushes forward), which you would think would have come more into play when the Lannisters commit their entire reserves to their left (which would be on the Stark’s right). This last part is quite mysterious: given the geography of the battlefield, the Starks should be trying to get around the Lannister’s *right* not the left, so that it can roll up the flank in the direction of the river, trying to push their enemies downhill, instead of trying to fight up the gradient the entire way. And yet we never see or hear of any action other than the Stark right on the Lannister right.

Given that the Northern host is only 16,000 strong, the absence of the Boltons (4,000 men) and the Northern cavalry (600) and the Northern left (approximately 5,300 men) suggests that perhaps only 6,100 of the Northern host – the unlucky Northern right – were fully engaged in the battle. This failure to commit the bulk of the Northern forces to the fight suggests that, just as is later the case at Duskendale and the Ruby Ford, Bolton is deliberately throwing a third of his army into the meat grinder.

Exhibit D comes with the mysterious beginning of the battle, which opens with the *Lannister* archers firing first: “a vast flight of infantry arched up from his right [i.e, from the center where Kevan commands]…the northerners broke into a run, shouting as they came, but the Lannister arrows fell on them like hail.” This also fails a very basic test of military skill: in medieval warfare, you send out your archers first, to clear away the enemy’s archers, so that your infantry is no longer threatened and your archers can safely concentrate on disrupting your enemy’s infantry formation. Given how ineffective Norman archers were at penetrating an in-place shield wall on the high ground at Hastings, the Lannisters’ initial volleys should have been an ineffective tactic and yet it’s successful in disrupting spearmen trying to charge on foot, and it’s not answered. Only later do we see massed missile fire that could conceivably be from the Starks, and then it’s directed at the one place on the battlefield where the Stark infantry could be hit by friendly fire (as Brynden BFish points out).

Again, this makes no sense: given the impossible task of attacking a largely cavalry force, the Northern commander should have used his archers from the outset to engage the Lannister archers from the high ground, while the Lannisters ineffectually fire up-hill. This factor is normally dominant: at the Battle of Towton, for example, a strong opposing wind was enough to make the Lancastrian archers fire short, allowing the Yorkist archers to advance without being threatened, pluck up the Lancastrian arrows feathering the ground, and use them to decimate their opposing numbers with the wind adding to their range. Likewise, at Hastings, firing up-hill was enough to render the Norman archers completely useless. He should then have had the archers screening his infantry advance to allow them to keep their shield walls intact and to disrupt the enemy’s formation.

One of these errors on their own would suggest incompetence most uncharacteristic to the carefully-planned victor of Harrenhal and Moat Cailin. All four together point to malice. This is compounded by the politics of the situation.

The Politics of the War of Five Kings

As Brynden has noted, Roose Bolton makes very sure that all casualties come out of other Houses, chiefly Karstarks, Hornwoods, Cerwyns, Glovers, Manderlys, and Freys. We can see this especially from the list of important bannermen killed or captured in the battle: Lord Halys Hornwood, Lord Medger Cerwyn, Harrion Karstark, and Ser Wylis Manderly. The first thing that’s obvious is that Roose Bolton is eliminating his regional rivals – House Hornwood is immediately to his south, House Cerwyn is to his southwest, House Karstark is to his north, and House Manderly is the other major power of the North’s eastern coast (House Glover represents more of a personal rival, in that Robett Glover vied with Roose for a command). By putting their forces in the front lines, Roose Bolton ensures that their Houses are weakened while the 4,000 men of House Bolton remain intact, a strategy he will return to at Duskendale and the Ruby Ford.


However, there is also a political edge to his actions that goes beyond basic geopolitics. Each of these Houses has a significance to Roose Bolton: Halys Hornwood (as we saw earlier) is an expansionist lord, vying to dam the White Knife, gain hunting privileges north of a ridge, and regain a certain holdfast taken from his grandfather; while the White Knife primarily affects House Manderly, geography suggests that the latter two items are Bolton lands. Eliminating Lord Hornwood nips that threat in the bud. On the positive side, killing the Lord of Hornwood, thanks to his son’s simultaneous death at the Whispering Woods, opens up the whole of the Hornwood lands to Bolton expansion – a topic I’ll get into in greater detail in A Clash of Kings. The Manderlys are a major power player in Northern politics, as White Harbor dominates Northern trade and the White Knife gives the Manderlys a swift route to the interior. As we’ll see in ACOK, the death of the Hornwoods immediately places the Manderlys and Boltons in conflict, one that carries through to ADWD. The Karstarks are a more long-term threat – if House Bolton is attempting to expand south, House Karstark sits at his rear with close to his number of soldiers. Moreover, in a political sense, the Karstark’s blood ties to House Stark would always give them an edge over the little-liked Boltons in vying for the support of the other lesser Houses in picking a new Great House for the North.

I concur with Brynden that it’s not possible to tell in AGOT what Bolton’s plans were at this moment, whether he was planning from the outset to betray Robb Stark. However, what we can say is that Bolton not only botched the battle, but did so in such a way as to weaken his nearest rivals, and put himself closest to the North should Robb Stark fall in battle. Most definitely something to keep an eye on in the future.

Historical Analysis:

The Green Fork is a bit of a mishmash in terms of historical parallels. As I’ve already suggested, the geography of the battle resembles nothing so much as a bizarro Battle of Hastings where the Saxons don’t even bother to hold the high ground and just charge straight down into the Normans to be hacked into pieces. In the historical Battle of Hastings (1066 C.E, as you probably already know if you come from the U.K), the forces of King Harold Godwinson executed a grueling 200 mile march from Stamford Bridge, where he had trounced the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada, down to Hastings on the southern coast. Unlike Bolton, Harold’s intent wasn’t to surprise the Normans as much as it was to stop them marching from the coast towards London, but the result was the same: an exhausted army of Saxons going up against well-rested Normans.

However, unlike Bolton, Harold Godwinson wasn’t acting the fool. He put his men on top of a tall ridge with swampy ground below it, and rivers anchoring his flanks – the perfect location for infantry to fight cavalry. I’ve stood on that ridge at Battle Abbey and it’s a steep slope that I would hate to have to run up knowing there was a Saxon longaxe coming for my face.

Harold got his men into a strong shield wall and kept them there as long as he could (probably as long as he was alive, but accounts differ about how and when Harold died); this shield wall completely defeated the Norman archers who fired up the hill, and easily stood off repeated up-hill assaults by Norman infantry and then knights  from about 9 in the morning until the mid-afternoon. At some point, possibly when Harold died to a freak arrow shot, the Saxon’s discipline began to falter when the Normans engaged in a series of feigned retreats and the Saxons broke the shield wall to pursue them, only to be cut down when the Norman cavalry wheeled around and charged them on level ground. When the rumor circulated that Duke William of Normandy was dead, the Saxons charged down the hill en masse, where they got caught between the Normans at the bottom of the hill and a cavalry contingent that had circled around behind them. At this point, the Norman archers could now fire with full effect – and at this point, Harold seems to have died, either from an arrow to the eye or a sword to the head, and the Saxons broke and were ridden down.

credit to Tom Lovell

Politically, however, the Battle of the Green Fork resembles nothing so much as the 2nd Battle of St. Albans. If you will recall from last time, at the Battle of St. Mortimer’s Cross, Edward of York had made his triumphant entry into the Wars of the Roses by destroying a Welsh army led by Jasper Tudor that was marching to link up with Margaret D’Anjou’s main Lancastrian force that was marching from Wakefield to London. It was Richard Neville, Duke of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker, who attempted to bar her passage even as Edward marched east.

Warwick tried a hell of a lot harder than Bolton to win his battle. Known for his immense wealth, Warwick had splashed out for Burgundian mercenaries armed with flaming arrows and crude handguns, crossbowmen with pavise shields, and a fearsome array of cannons to try to make up for the fact that he was outnumbered 10,000 to 15,000. His archers, placed in high windows in the city itself, held back the Lancastrians for several hours, long enough to enable Warwick to establish a new defensive line, complete with artillery, caltraps, and his Burgundian mercenaries. Unfortunately for Warwick, 2nd St. Albans was fought in the driving snow, which dampened his gunpowder, rendering his artillery ineffective. Just when it looked like his defensive line might hold, Warwick’s close lieutenant Sir Harry Lovelace, who had taken a £4,000 bribe to switch sides, deserted in the middle of the battle, opening a gap in the Yorkist line that Lancastrian mounted knights poured through.

With his army broken or defecting, Warwick pulled his 4,000 remaining men away from the battle, leaving 2-4,000 men dead on the field, and crucially leaving the captured King Henry VI on the field to be recaptured by the Lancastrians. Only the onset of night allowed him to avoid total defeat. Warwick would go on to link up with Edward of York, get their combined army safely to London, and have the Duke of York crowned Edward IV, King of England.

Like the Battle of the Green Fork, 2nd St. Albans was a tactical success in the east immediately overshadowed by Edward IV’s military prodigy in the west.

What If?

As usual, a battle offers some interest scope for hypothetical scenarios. Two major scenarios suggest themselves:

  • Tyrion is captured or killed? During the battle, Tyrion is getting beaten around by a Northern horseman who knows who he is and is trying to capture him. Almost by accident, Tyrion manages to gore his horse with a foot-long spike on his helmet (which is ridiculous), but doesn’t get killed when the horse falls on top of him. Granted, if Tyrion had been captured, it’s mostly likely he would have been recaptured during the Lannister advance, but if he hadn’t…well, with an extra Lannister, Robb might well have been willing to trade Tyrion for Sansa given that he’d still have Jaime in reserve. This gives Tyrion some very valuable time to compare notes with Jaime about what the business is with the dagger and Bran, and possibly springs Sansa from King’s Landing. If that doesn’t happen, or if Tyrion dies, then he’s not around to be acting Hand. Which means the duty falls to Kevan, who’s not going to be nearly inspired enough to counter Cersei or construct the boom chain. In all likelihood, King’s Landing falls, giving Robb the perfect opportunity to crush Tywin Lannister once and for all.
  • Tywin’s plan succeeds? Other than just raising the body count on both sides, the only way this might change the larger macro plot is if somehow Roose Bolton is removed from command, either by Robb Stark (more on why this doesn’t happen in OTL later) or by being captured or killed on the field. While unlikely, this potentially could help the Northern war effort by preventing the disasters of Duskendale and Ruby Ford, and potentially the Red Wedding as well if cautious Lord Frey isn’t willing to take on the whole of the North by himself.

Book vs. Show:

The show massively diverges from the book at this point, eschewing the battle in favor of having Tyrion be knocked out by one of his own men and waking up after the battle. While on one level, I understand that budgetary pressures make battles very difficult and this isn’t the most important of the battles, since it’s been downgraded to a mere 2,000 men diversion against the Lannisters. However, it verges on demeaning to have Tyrion’s first moment where he realizes that he actually shares some of Jaime’s skill and love of battle be reduced to a punchline. Moreover, we lose the entirety of this political intrigue.


193 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VIII

  1. Ryan Noonan says:

    “hurts far less than” what? Don’t leave us hanging!

  2. Alex says:

    Awesome analysis! It really helped me envision this battle because I’d always had trouble with this one. I heard on some of the season 2 commentary that this battle was the last thing they cut, because they simply ran out of money right before it. But as to why the show changed the nature of the battle, I always assumed it was to hide Bolton’s betrayal as long as possible. When I read the books for the first time, I was shocked at how terrible a general Bolton was in the major battles we hear about, and I became suspicious of him in aCoK. Given how much I’ve studied classical battles, I couldn’t understand any of his decisions, as he seemed to break every major rule of classical warfare. Perhaps the show, given how explicit a visual medium can make things, chose to not present Bolton that way in order to hide his betrayal for maximum shock? Show-only viewers didn’t start to suspect something was really off with him until he let Jaime go in episode 7 of season 3.

    You’ll surely discuss this more when you get there, but I’ve always thought the loss of the Battle of the Whispering Wood was one of the greatest crimes the TV show committed, given their ability to show events that didn’t happen in a POV. Making at least part of that battle on camera would’ve given the show the ability to really show why Jaime was so impressive, as well as helping explain Karstark’s hatred a little more. They could have named some stunt men Karstark and shown Jaime cutting through the Northern host. Some of my show-only friends think that Jaime was just arrogant about his abilities and not that good, given how Ned seemed to be able to fight him to a draw and how easily Brienne beat him in-show.

    Anyways, love your insights and the historian’s mind you bring to the books. Keep it up!

    • Kim says:

      They did a poor shot on the battle. They meant to have Tyrion be behind GREGOR. it didn’t work so well.

    • Thanks!

      Yeah, the show really changed Bolton – he appears much more a figure of grim realpolitik sitting on Robb’s left shoulder telling him it’s better to be feared than loved and then getting exasperated and bumping him off almost out of professional disapproval. Definitely comes more out of left field – but that’s how they handled the Red Wedding in general; instead of throwing in tons of foreshadowing, it hits out of the blue.

      As for the Whispering Woods, I’ll get into it in next week. But I actually don’t mind the way they shot it – there are bigger problems.

  3. beto2702 says:

    Is a battle surely there are more what-ifs here but not sure how much could they have impacted the overall situation.

    Bronn could have died
    Hornwood could have lived
    Karstark could have escaped or died… (wonder what this would mean to the whole Rickard Karstark affair)

    • Yeah…I did that part late at night and I think I was running out of steam.

      Bronn dying doesn’t really change things outside of the Stokeworth plot, but that’s minor.

      Hornwood living, OTOH, has some interesting consequences. With House Hornwood still a going concern, we don’t get Ramsay going AWOL (although quite possibly he finds another pretext). Which in turn means Rodrik doesn’t go east to capture “Reek,” and that the Manderlys aren’t distracted by the Hornwood lands and the Boltons when the Ironborn attack. Theon doesn’t get the idea for the boys at the mill, which means the word gets out that Bran and Rickon escape – possibly heading off Robb sleeping with Jeyne and Catelyn freeing Jaime. Ser Rodrick’s force may not be ambushed by Ramsay, in which case Winterfell is retaken.

      With Winterfell in Stark hands, Robb’s first move after getting back to Riverrun may not be to march north and abandon the Riverlands.

      Harrion Karstark – doesn’t change the Rickard Karstark plot that much; he was clearly unhinged just by his losses at the Whispering Woods. However, if Harrion escapes or is killed, this may mean that *Arnolf* Karstark doesn’t “ally” with Stannis.

  4. beto2702 says:

    I just came with an interesting one… “What if The Mountain dies?”

    • ajay says:

      He spends most of the next few months raiding around the Riverlands – that’s a job that could be done by plenty of other people, I would think. Someone else would need to retake Harrenhal from Vargo Hoat in “Storm of Swords” – again, not too much of a change; I’m sure that Randyll Tarly would be up to the job.

      But it also means that the Mountain’s not around to be picked as king’s champion in Tyrion’s trial by combat. It would just be some random normal-sized person. One of the Kingsguard, maybe? Or a Kettleblack?

      Maybe that means that Bronn is prepared to reject the bribe and stand up for Tyrion again if he only has to face a Kettleblack (and probably win) rather than the Mountain – probably not, though, because he’s worked out that he’s better off being paid off than siding with his out of favour former boss. And that means that Tyrion doesn’t even get a trial by combat, because Oberyn Martell won’t be much inclined to fight for him against Ser Random of Not-Appearing-In-This-Book (against whom he has no particular grudge). So he ends up in the black cells just as in OTL, is let out, kills Tywin, escapes east etc.

      In fact, with Gregor dead, Oberyn Martell might not even come to KL at all – depends on whether he can be convinced that justice has been served…

      • beto2702 says:

        Yeah I was thinking more about that duel more than the Riverlands raiding. Still “IF” there is a trial by combat and Tyrion’s champion wins things could change a lot & Oberyn’s rage then would surely move to Tywin and who know what could happen then.

      • I think Oberyn will come and try to poison Tywin.

      • John says:

        Oberyn makes it clear that he primarily blames Tywin for his sister’s death. There’s certainly no trial by combat for Tyrion – but does that mean Tyrion takes his father’s offer to take the black?

      • John says:

        I do think that Bronn might be perfectly willing to back Tyrion in the trial if Osmund Kettleblack is the champion instead of Gregor Clegane. I always got the impression that “Gregor Clegane will almost certainly kill me” is the main reason Bronn won’t support Tyrion here, more than “I’ve been bribed to abandon Tyrion.”

        • Agreed. I think Bronn’s reaction would be: “sure, gimme the bribe.” *gets the bribe* “Hey Tyrion, how much to bribe me back?”

          • beto2702 says:

            So… Tyrion lives and is declared an innocent man. Oberyn comes and poisons Tywin…

            Cersei would surely go nuts and go after Tyrion either way but, in the middle of Tywins death he could pretty much escape.

            Still he has no money and… oh wait! With Tywin dead, Cersei the queen regent and Jaime in the kignsguard… what stops Tyrions from escaping to the Rock and naming himself “The Lord of Casterly Rock”?

            Surely Cersei can go after him with the power of the crown, but the crown has a lot of problems at the moment and even when some people in the Rock might dislike Tyrion, he would have the public support of one of the kingdoms as the legitimate heir.

            Unless Tywin wrote some paper explicitly naming another heir in case of his death…

      • ajay says:

        I always got the impression that “Gregor Clegane will almost certainly kill me” is the main reason Bronn won’t support Tyrion here, more than “I’ve been bribed to abandon Tyrion.”

        Hmm. Debatable, I suppose, but Bronn does make the point that, win or lose, he’s not going to do well out of being Tyrion’s champion. Tyrion’s still going to have the Queen Regent thinking he murdered her son, regardless of the outcome. It’s not like he’s going to go into the ring against a Kettleblack and win and then Tywin and Cersei will say “oh, well, the gods have spoken, I guess you didn’t kill Joffrey after all! Welcome back, little brother! All is forgiven!”
        Under those circumstances, how long is he going to be able to survive in KL and (more to the point) pay Bronn? What’s the point of loyally tying yourself to a sinking ship?

        • That’s a good point. But there’s no reason Tyrion couldn’t hire any other mercenary who just wants the cash.

          • beto2702 says:

            He should surely leave the capitol, eventually. He is not safe there, he is not safe anywhere but specially there. But what does that leave him? Dorne? Essos again? I wonder if there is a fanfic about Tyrion going into the Iron Islands… hahaha

    • That is interesting. While ajay has a point about the raiding, I don’t know if another raider would quite have his ferocity: this probably means that the eight-year-old Lord Lyman Darry doesn’t get brutally murdered, which might complicate Lancel and Amei’s situation.

      The bigger shift is the trial – without the Mountain, Cersei doesn’t have an ace in the hole for the trial by combat. The Kettleblacks aren’t noticeably better than Bronn. Blount’s a coward and past his prime, Meryn Trant isn’t an especially good fighter. Balon Swann is too friendly to Tyrion.

      Now Oberyn might want to do the trial anyway, just to screw with the Lannisters. Regardless, he survives, which means no move by Arianne and the Sand Snakes to declare war, which means Myrcella goes unharmed and Arys Oakheart doesn’t die on the sands.

      Somehow I think Tyrion finds a champion somewhere.

      • Sean C. says:

        Cersei’s not limited to the Kingsguard for champions against Tyrion in the trial, since Ser Gregor isn’t one (actually, that’s kind of hard to square with what we’re told the rules are in AFFC; surely the same would be true in a regicide trial). There’d be better options from among her father’s knights.

        Actually, though, that’s probably unnecessary. Balon Swann (friendly or not, he’s bound by oath, and from the later books we see he takes that seriously) or Loras Tyrell would suffice (whether Cersei would pick him is admittedly spotty, since she loathes the Tyrells and Loras personally; but she knows he’s a great knight, which is what she needs at that moment, so maybe).

      • John says:

        Who’s the obvious candidate who’s anywhere near as terrifying as Gregor Clegane? I can’t think of anyone who’s even close.

      • beto2702 says:

        With Myrcella’s ear in place, what do they say to Balon Swann when he comes for her in ADwD?

        Oberyn then is the biggest unexpected wildcard in the table….

        1. Does Doran send for him to send him after Dany instead of Quentyn? He is Dany’s type… just imagine the Daario-Oberyn confrontations. Also, Oberyn will poison Hizdair before being poisoned himself. The chances of Dany arriving in Westeros sooner and with Dorne supporting her increase tenfold.

        2. Oberyn stays in the small council. As mentioned he can still poison Tywin. He would be a total mess for Cersei and the Tyrells, and one of the HIgh Sparrows most likely people to go after. I mean Oberyn’s bisexuality is quite public. Without Tywin, Oberyn’s next victim would be Cersei. He would find away to put people or situations against her. In summary, a total chaos in the capitol.

        3. Oberyn gets himself killed in some other way. LIkely, especially if he poisons Tywin and Cersei sees him as an enemy. He has the temper to get himself killed in either a more obscure or just as public situation. Then he might put Dorne in a situation where his death is really seen as a Cersei-Tyrell thing. Dorne goes to war? Arianne and the Sand Snakes get what they wanted.

  5. Sean C. says:

    As far as Tyrion’s battle experience is concerned, George R. R. Martin’s depiction of Tyrion’s fighting skill is not terribly realistic, and I think the show acknowledges that throughout by avoiding that sort of scene, which wouldn’t look terribly plausible (I believe his sole action moment is chopping off that guy’s leg from behind in “Blackwater”).

    I can’t imagine that Tywin would ever agree to trade Sansa for Tyrion when Robb still has Jaime. That would leave them with no leverage for some future event where Robb might otherwise be provoked into executing him.

    • True, but this isn’t the worst offender on battles – as fights go, Tyrion’s getting his ass kicked by the first guy he fights until his horse bites him in the face, then gets his ass kicked by second guy he fights until the horse goring changes things.

      Tywin doesn’t know that they don’t have Arya, tho.

  6. gavinbyrnes says:

    This might be beyond your usual scope of absurdity in what-ifs, but what if Roose Bolton or Tywin dies? Anybody can die in a battle, and obviously removing either of them changes the course of the War of Five Kings entirely. Maybe it’s as simple as “Robb wins independence for the North and Stannis takes King’s Landing,” but where does Tyrion go? Does Cersei unhinge faster? Do the Mountain and/or Ramsay go rogue?

    • Well, if Roose dies, it’s more or less the same as him getting captured – no Duskendale, no Ruby Ford, probably no Red Wedding, and no one on hand to take over the North if the RW happens anyway. Ramsay…hmm, dunno.

      If Tywin dies, I think his army starts to fall apart. Kevan Lannister takes some part of it back to a defensible position at King’s Landing, but at that point the West falls into infighting and chaos, etc. Tyrion probably makes it to KL, but without authority there’s little he can do. Cersei I don’t think survives the sieges.

      The Mountain definitely goes rogue.

  7. Chad says:

    Good stuff as always. Though for the Battle of Hastings Harold didn’t act the fool once at the battle but he could have avoided or delayed seeing battle for himself. His brother Gyrth Godwinson could have lead the army against William while Harold stripping county side of food and raising another force in London/waited for the rest of those that survived Stamford Bridge to come to the south. Might have given the Anglo-Saxon a second chance to defeat the Normans.

    The other what if would be if Roose or the North actually won the battle. Either with the surprise attack or alternatively like Ceaser at the Battle of Pharsalus over Pompey.

    • Whoops – I didn’t see the surprise attack option here. Hmm…potentially a surprise attack can obliterate an army, as we see at Riverrun, Whispering Woods, the Camps, and Oxcross. So maybe Tywin’s army gets virtually knocked out and sent packing? Tywin might be able to regroup at Harrenhal again, but maybe he doesn’t have enough left to garrison it effectively – he might fall back on King’s Landing.

      Which might mean that Robb decides to go south rather than west.

  8. Tom Willcox says:

    What if…Roose had not done a night march but found a nice hill by the Green Fork to fight a defensive battle on?

    • I’ll respond to both you and Chad in this comment: I think if Roose had either just stopped on the hills and fought a defensive battle, or found similar good ground further up the Neck or even at Moat Cailin, the best he’s likely to achieve is a tactical defensive victory in which he bloodies Tywin’s army but Tywin pulls back before he can take too many losses. So instead of ending up with 10,000 Northern foot on the north bank of the Trident and 20,000 men camped in Harrenhal, maybe you’ve got 15,000 Northern foot vs. 15,000 Lannistermen.

      The big question is how much damage Roose could have inflicted while Tywin is force-marching south to try to get to Riverrun – and at what point Tywin’s numbers drop below the point where he’s considered politically viable and the Tyrell alliance doesn’t happen. As we saw with Stannis, no one takes you seriously as a political contender at 5,000 men. Where the cutoff starts is unclear – 15? 12? 10? 8?

      • Tom Willcox says:

        Good point about future viability, I guess also the rest of the war in the riverlands goes very differently if the Lannister army is decreased by a quarter, cos even if after force-marching the Lannisters have 14,000 men remaining against Bolton’s hypothetical 15,000 and things play out as OTL, at the battle of the Fords Roose Bolton could come up on the Lannisters from behind and sandwich Tywin against the Red Fork while he is committed to crossing. Or is that just wishful thinking?

        I suppose alternatively, as he would have around twice as many men as Tywin then, Robb might be tempted to ride south and give battle at Harrenhal and possibly get flattened, rather than hit Oxcross.

      • John says:

        Of course, Tywin’s 15,000 men aren’t the whole of the Lannister forces. At the time of the Green Fork, Jaime’s force is still intact and soon Stafford Lannister is assembling a new force in Lannisport. Both of these forces are defeated, but there still seems to be some kind of western army even after that, because we later see Daven Lannister in command of a force at Riverrun which seem to include Lannister forces who had never gone to King’s Landing with Tywin. There’s also the expanded Goldcloak force at King’s Landing, and Tyrion’s hill tribes. And, of course, unlike Stannis, Tywin holds the capital (and Casterly Rock & Lannisport). Stannis’s 5000 is a complete and total mobilization of the forces available to him in the Narrow Sea. Tywin’s 15,000 would be only a moderate percentage of the total troops available to him, and even of the Lannister forces currently under arms.

      • Ok…but the WW and the Camps is going to happen without a reason why it doesn’t happen.

        Daven’s force at Riverrun is really small; the remnants of Oxcross. It’s one of the reasons why he couldn’t keep the Freys in line – he didn’t have the largest contingent of forces there. I would put his force there around 500-1000 men.

        And keep in mind, the army at Oxcross was raw recruits and old men not the core of the Lannister forces. Once they’re gone, all the Lannisters have left is Tywin’s army and a few scattered garrisons.

  9. axrendale says:

    Nice analysis of the battle Steven.

    Tyrion VIII is one of my favorite chapters in AGOT, in large part because it’s one of the very few times in the series to date when the reader actually gets a real-time, on-the-ground perspective of a major battle (if memory serves, the only other times this happens are the Blackwater and the battle of the Wall).

    This chapter could almost be considered an encapsulation of the author’s perspective on war that we see through the series. On the one hand, Martin’s prose is almost lyrical in his depiction of the two armies lining up to give battle – the likening of the Lannister host to an “iron rose, thorns gleaming” is typical – with the centerpiece being the detailed description of Tywin’s fantastically ornate suit of armor. From there though, the narrative soon descends into the blood and gore of the actual combat.

    Concerning your alternate scenario in which Tyrion gets taken out of action:

    “Which means the duty falls to Kevan, who’s not going to be nearly inspired enough to counter Cersei or construct the boom chain. In all likelihood, King’s Landing falls…”

    I think that might be selling Kevan short. From what we see of him in AFFC and ADWD, it’s clear that he definitely has the capacity to be more than a match for Cersei. Whether he would have been able to manage the defense of the city as capabaly as Tyrion is more contentious, but not necessarily out of the possibility, I would think.

    • Thanks, glad you liked it.

      Here’s the thing about Kevan – I think his capacity only comes to the fore once he’s out of the shadow of his brother, and once the shocks of what happened to his sons knock the scales off of his eyes when it comes to his family.

      AGOT Kevan would have done a competent by-the-numbers job. And he would have failed.

      • Winnief says:

        Yeah, I think Kevan started turning against Cersei, (mentally if not openly for Tywin’s sake,) after the Battle of Blackwater when presumably Lancel confided everything to him; Cersei’s sleeping around, Joffrey’s horrible reign, and worst of all the way Cersei behaved during the battle; ignoring her responsibilities to drink and complain, having Joffrey taken away from the battlefront (which might well have cost them the Mud Gate, and been the cause of Lancel’s injuries,) and that how when he Lancel tried to reason with her she struck him and whisked out-leaving Sansa to be the one to call for the Maester and calm everyone down.

        But prior to learning all that, I think Kevan would have been inclined to defer to Cersei out of respect for Tywin. After all she’s Tywin’s daughter, who he worked so hard to put where she is…surely she deserves our respect and loyalty? Right? Right? He would have believed that until it was too late.

        And Kevan just wouldn’t have been inspired to do Tyrion’s stunt with the Wildfyre.

        • Agreed. I think pre-ASOS Kevan would have second thoughts about totally overruling the Queen Regent. After all, in OTL he didn’t do anything until after she really went haywire with the Faith.

      • John says:

        Kevan’s already pretty done with Cersei well before all the stuff with the Faith. I think his initial relations with her would be much more deferential than Tyrion’s, but it seems likely he’d lose patience with her quickly – he certainly has almost none for her in AFFC. He’d certainly recognize quickly how awful Joffrey was, and perhaps be more capable of reining him in than Tyrion is (although less so than Tywin). I agree he’d probably not come up with the ideas Tyrion did to save the city.

  10. lann says:

    Do you think its possible that Tywin deciphered Bolton’s negative tactics in this battle? Is this possibly where the negotiations started between them?

  11. ajay says:

    Which means the duty falls to Kevan, who’s not going to be nearly inspired enough to counter Cersei or construct the boom chain. In all likelihood, King’s Landing falls…

    I am looking forward to the analysis of the Battle of the Blackwater chapter (due in, what, 2016 or something) because it’s always struck me that Stannis was taking one hell of a gamble. An opposed amphibious landing is about the trickiest thing you can do in modern warfare, and an immediate assault on an unreduced fortified city sounds like about the trickiest thing you could do in mediaeval warfare, and Stannis’ plan was to do one, then the other.

    • It’s a gamble, but on the other hand, he’s going in with a huge numerical advantage against ill-trained and inexperienced soldiers.

      • Tom Willcox says:

        It does raise the interesting question as to why Stannis, supposedly a cautious commander, didn’t just land on the north bank. Davos mentions this while sailing up the Blackwater, saying it would be a safer landing, though longer. They would have been largely unopposed and eliminated the boom chain that they knew was being built, plus all the defences ranged along the south of the city.

        Can’t wait till your Blackwater chapters!

  12. I’ve never been very good with working out the logistics of the battles to be honest so this was great. Very convincing theory that Roose Bolton deliberately botched this, which I never considered at all. Goes against the whole theory that Roose only decided to betray Robb after he broke his marriage vows. What a jerk. So let’s stop with the whole blaming Robb/ Catelyn for the Red Wedding thing. Not saying they didn’t make mistakes, but it happened because opportunistic assholes decided they wanted it to happen. I don’t know if this makes me more or less depressed about how early the seeds for the RW were planted in these books, or how the Starks agency to stop it happening is (somewhat) lessened. No idea if that makes any sense.

    • Winnie says:

      Oh, yeah, it’s becoming increasingly clear, that Roose was always treacherous and working to undermine Robb from the start-given how important he was in the chain of command, that seems like a much bigger problem than Jeyne ever was.

      I think it is more depressing to realize how doomed the Starks were from day one…and its hard to deal with because we prefer the “tragic hero undone by one tragic flaw narrative.” That’s how people interpreted the RW on the show-I don’t know if the show runners will ever start to drop the hints the books did that maybe certain traitors, (like Roose) were always looking to betray-and what impact that will have on viewers perceptions.

      • I actually think rewatching the series in season 2, that actor was really in the background but was so subtly creepy that you can kind of already see it. I have a bit of a thing for show Roose and I’m not sure what that says about me.

    • To be clear, I think Bolton had a two-stage thing going on: stage one, which was always the plan, was to do as much harm to the rest of the North as he could get away with. Stage two was to take out Robb himself.

      In terms of responsibility for the RW, I think we throw way too much on Robb and Catelyn’s shoulders. But more on that in ASOS.

  13. bryndenbfish says:

    Thanks for the shouts in this post. Glad we could agree on something finally! The level of detail you added from my own thoughts on the battle is fantastic. I never considered that the Northmen could have stayed on the hill and let the Lannister cavalry charge up it. It’s just more and more evidence for Roose Bolton’s treason.

    One thing worth pointing out is that Tywin’s battle plan was a clever one. If he would have enveloped the Northern left flank with Marbrand’s cavalry, it would have been game over for the Northern army as the Lannisters would have effectively pushed them into the river.

    And ironically, in this hypothetical, I see a situation where Roose and his 4K Dreadfort men withdrawals the 14K remainder of his army are slaughtered .

    It’s very fortunate (or unfortunate seeing how things turned out) for Roose that this didn’t happen. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have 1500-2000 Freys in ADWD and TWOW…

    • Hey, I’m not a contrarian for the sake of being contrary 😉

      Seriously though, your stuff was quite good.

      Tywin’s plan is pretty good – although I wonder what would happen if Robb Stark had gone all-in against Tywin instead of splitting his forces. If Robb places 6,000 heavy cavalry on the left, then Marbrand’s screwed and it may well be the Lannisters getting pushed into the river.

  14. Shae is definitely very different in the TV show, but it’s hard to judge exactly what they’re going for with that character until we see how it plays out in season 4. The fact that she apparently genuinely loves him in the show has the potential for it to actually be even more devastating than the books.

    • Oh, it’s going to be more devastating.

      On the other hand, the explanation for the turn is going to need some really good script work other wise people are going to cry foul.

      • Sean C. says:

        The changes they’ve made to Shae remind me somewhat of the recent “Great Gatsby” film, where they try to give Daisy some depth. It works really well for much of the running time, but then Daisy has to perform the same actions in the finale, and it’s much harder to understand then in the book, where the whole point is that she’s really shallow.

        • Yeah,,,that does worry me somewhat. I can sort of see where they’re going with Shae betraying Tyrion out of jealousy or something…but it’s going to make where she dies almost incomprehensible.

      • Winnief says:

        Yeah, I mean I can still imagine, Tywin coercing Shae into giving false testimony against Tyrion via threats and maybe playing on her jealousy of Sansa…but it makes no sense for Shae to end up in Tywin’s bed chamber. I’m starting to think that on the show, they’ll change it to Tywin being the one who kills Shae instead of Tyrion-which would also fit the show’s intent of keeping Tyrion more sympathetic and giving him even further motive for killing Tywin.

        I’m not saying that would be the best move on their part, (I know book purists will really hate that one,) but I think it might be where they’re headed.

      • I could see her sleeping with Tywin to try and save Tyrion’s life. She comes to him to try and convince Tywin to let Tyrion go into exile or take that black and either Tywin demands “compensation” or she uses what tools she has to make her case. Tyrion walks in during or in the aftermath and won’t listen to her. I wouldn’t be surprised if they skip the privy and have both in bed. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Tywin gets shot first.

      • Just overhearing Shea give Tywing the pillow talk he wants comparing him favorably to his son would be enough to set Tyrion off.

      • Sean C. says:

        Regarding where Shae dies, I have to say, one thing the show would have had to deal with either way is something Martin ducks having to explain at all: namely, how all this happened on Tywin’s end.

        I have no problem believing that Tywin secretly liked hookers all these years; that’s a plausible bit of hypocrisy. But why does he end up in bed with the hooker who was his despised son’s paramour?

        • Yeah, that is quite weird.

          My personal theory is that Tywin ordered a hooker blind, using Varys as his go-between. Varys picked Shae, gave her the necklace, and put her in the bed.

          I don’t think Tywin saw her, let alone slept with her.

      • shaunpeacock says:

        I am predicting that post PW Shae will find out that Cersei is trying to put Sansa in the frame – maybe as instigator/helper – and she’ll offer to testify and sell Tyrion – who she’s been shown to be souring on – down the river in order to protect Sansa – who Shae had been shown to be extremely loyal to.

        As to how Shae winds up in the bedchamber, well Shae still has to earn a living, having rejected Varys’ gift, so why not warm Tywin’s bed. Thus Tyrion walks in, sees his girlfriend in his father’s bed and murder ensues. For extra poignancy, have Shae be reluctant to go through with both acts.

      • Celestial says:

        Steve, couldn’t it be though simply what Qyburn suggested, that Tywin wanted to question Shae regarding Sansa’s whereabouts?

        I’ve seen your previous suggestion, that Varys plotted Tywin’s murder, but don’t you think you are over-analyzing? Varys definetely would have tried to kill Tywin at one point or another, but him dying at the hands of Tyrion could have been just a freak coincidence.
        There are simply too many what-if’s in the chain of events leading to Tywin’s death to assume everything was plotted by Varys.

        1. Tyrion’s escape was instrumented by Jaime, which forced Varys to do it. How could Varys know Jaime will free Tyrion or that he will enlist his help to do so? But assuming Varys expected this, this leads to further problems.

        2. Going to Tywin’s chambers was Tyrion’s idea, not Varys. Even assuming that Varys planned to lead him there anyway, he could not have known that Tyrion will be willing to risk his escape in order to get his revenge.

        3. Even if Tyrion reached Tywin, Varys could not have known that the former will actually succeed in his assassination. Putting aside the chance of Tyrion getting cold feet, Tyrion could have succeeded only if he found Tywin in some helpless situation – for instance, asleep, or, in OTL, on the privy. If Tywin had been in his chambers, he would have easily overpowered Tyrion and that would have been the end of it. Varys had no way of knowing how they will find Tywin.
        Even so, it still beggars belief how come Shae was not able to put up a struggle – she was taller than him and Tyrion was unarmed. A lot of women are capable of putting up a fight against normal-sized men – yet Tyrion strangles her as easy as he would a chicken?
        It also raises the question how on Earth did Tywin not “see” Shae? Even if she entered his chambers while Tywin was on the privy, how long can Tywin crap? Even if, by some weird coincidence, this happened, Varys could not have known that – and the whole plan hinged on Tyrion reaching Tywin’s chamber in maximum 15 minutes after Shae made her way there. Because, once Tywin saw Shae, if Varys did send her without Tywin’s knowledge, the latter would have suspected some foul play: Tywin knew that Varys was aware of who Shae was and having her sent to comfort him would look very suspicious.

        • 1. If Jaime hadn’t shown up, there’s no reason Varys couldn’t have either freed Tyrion on his own, or just done it himself.

          2. Sure, it’s Tyrion’s idea, but it’s not an unlikely scenario – Tyrion was just condemned to death by his father and Varys knows that Tyrion likes taking revenge on people.

          3. I think Tywin can spend quite some time on the privy, especially if the theories about Oberyn are true.

      • Sean C. says:

        Also, Tyrion’s revenge on Tywin hinges on Jaime spilling the beans about Tysha, which Varys couldn’t possibly have anticipated or known about.

        • I don’t think that’s even necessary – having it be Shae in his father’s bed is enough to kick it off. Keep in mind, there were dozens and dozens of witnesses to what Tywin did to Tyrion over Tysha. It’s impossible that no one talked.

    • ajay says:

      “The fact that she apparently genuinely loves him in the show has the potential for it to actually be even more devastating than the books.”

      I just assumed that the show version is not “she genuinely loves him” but “she’s pretending to love him so convincingly that it’s fooling the viewer as well and we’re going to be just as shocked as Tyrion when she betrays him”.

  15. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, you make a convincing case that House Bolton’s Lord was thinking ahead to his own advantage even so early in the campaign as the Battle by the Green Fork; interestingly your observation on his failure to take advantage of his successful Night March make me wonder if Ser Jaime won the fight at Riverrun by a similar strategy driven home to the hilt – a Night Action would put even greater strain on an inexperienced commander and explain how the Lannister Host overcame relative parity of numbers with a much fresher Host (also how so many of the River-Men were able to win away from what seems to have been something of a catastrophe).

  16. John says:

    Your explanation of what’s going on here makes sense, given the information given, but I want to suggest that you might be reading too much into it. There’s two points: firstly, the chapter is from Tyrion’s point of view, and Tyrion doesn’t have a very privileged perspective on what’s going on. As such, details of the course of the battle are heavily skewed towards what Tyrion himself experiences. That’s going to, for instance, make it seem like most of the fight is going on on the part of the battlefield Tyrion is fighting on, whether or not that’s actually what’s going on.

    Secondly, how good is GRRM at actually describing what happens in a battle? Especially at this stage of the thing. It may be that the battle doesn’t make much sense not because Roose is purposefully tanking, but because GRRM isn’t very good at describing battle tactics. I do think that Roose is purposefully putting his rivals and their troops in the front lines so that they’ll be the ones killed should anything bad happen (although, in general, it’s not actually suspicious to leave your own most trusted troops in reserve – that’s generally how you do it). I’m not convinced he’s actually trying to lose the battle – I tend to think Martin’s probably giving a very confused description that doesn’t fully come together.

    We should be careful about this kind of thing. For instance, looking at a map, it doesn’t seem like the Twins would be particularly strategically important at all. Nor do the geography of rivers in Westeros make any sense – the Green Fork rises in a flat marsh and flows downstream past a bunch of mountains. Huh? But we can’t think about this too much, because it’s just a flaw in world creation, not an actual plot point. I kind of think something similar is going on here, too.

    At the very least, I’ll note that none of the characters in the story, whether Roose’s opponents, his subordinates, or his superiors, ever suggests anything fishy is going on here. Robb immediately realizes that the Duskendale decision was fishy, for example, but has no suspicions about this battle.

    • Well yes, we’re dealing with partial information – but as a historian, that’s what you go with.

      I really disagree. Martin’s really really good at describing battles, one of the best. He doesn’t put in or leave out details at random.

      Re: the Twins. Think of the Trident as a unified whole. In order to break into the interior, you either have to break Riverrun, cross at the Ruby Ford near Harrenhal (although I’ve argued for a while that there should be a river at the point where the Red and Blue Forks meet), or cross at the Twins. So it’s military significance is that it is the eastern bulwark of the Trident. Economically speaking, it’s the highest crossing point of the Green Fork and near the Kingsroad. So if you want to transport goods to Seagard for shipment by sea, the Twins make the most sense if you’re north of the Ruby Ford; likewise, if you land goods at Seagard and want to transport them north, the Twins makes the most sense.

  17. zonaria says:

    Excellent article and pretty convincing as far as Roose is concerned.

    A good answer of course always prompts more questions – if Roose has decided to throw the battle, then presumably he has decided that either the Starks are going to lose the war, or that he is going to make sure the Starks lose. Which is it, and why? If the latter, why did he not pull something similar 17-odd years before?

    • He’s not throwing the battle sufficient to undermine the war effort per se – Roose allows Robb’s strategic plan to succeed, after all. At this stage, he’s simply trying to weaken his rivals.

  18. Winnie says:

    Well I think Roose decided to see to it that the Starks lost the war he was just looking for the chance to act. As for why not do it 17 years earlier he might not have thought he could throw that one-or be able to make a deal with the Mad King since he was you know mad. In ADWD we hearb Lady Dustin theorize that Roose may want to declare himself King in the North now that the Starks are gone and the Lannisters are in disarray.

    Really shows what a cold bastard Roose is and how he’s been playing the long game. Wish we could get that spelled out more on the show.

    • I’ll discuss when Roose makes this call later, but I don’t think it was from the outside exactly.

    • SpaceSquid says:

      But he had the chance to act here. All he really needed was to fall for Tywin’s trap, then retreat northwards following the resultant debacle, using anybody but his own forces to screen the withdrawal. It’s possible he didn’t do this for fear it would be too obvious to Robb, but that seems implausible; I don’t see Tywin – however much doubt Steven casts on the idea he was tremendously inspired as a general – bothering setting up a trap if it’s so obvious falling for it would be a sign of treachery.

      There is an argument to be made that he didn’t do this for fear that Tywin would pursue indefinitely and eventually make it through to the Bolton contingents – and Bolton himself – but I think it more likely that Bolton was treading a fine line; trying to ensure the most damage done to his rivals whilst leaving the war itself still viable to allow him to gain more advantages later. If Bolton throws the war here, Tywin is more likely to believe he’s a genuine potential defector, but he also reduces Tywin’s need for such a person, because now Tywin has a better chance at winning the war himself.

      In short, I don’t Bolton gave two craps about whether or not the way the war went, he just wanted it to hang in the balance for long enough for him to wring out maximum advantage from it.

      (Which, in a weird way, is actually kind of a compliment for Robb. If Bolton had believed the Whispering Woods action wasn’t going to work out, he might have fought harder on the Green Fork to keep the war from ending then and there. Actually, there’s a point. Did the Bolton cavalry accompany Robb? What did they get up to while he was capturing Jaime?)

  19. Mr Fixit says:

    A great read. I recently found your blog and I’m really enjoying it.

    One point though: it is my understanding that Roose had only 500 or 600 strong cavalry component, not over 2000. On what did you base your estimate?

    • Thanks! Glad you like it.

      You know what…I think I screwed up the math. I think I read that Robb took nine-tenths the foot and then took one-tenth of 22,000 instead of dividing by .9.

      Oh well, math wrong, point still stands that we didn’t see the cavalry at all.

    • David Hunt says:


      You say Stannis’ defeat is utterly predictable, but this is in direct contradiction how shocking Tywin’s arrival is both Stannis’s and Joffrey’s forces when he shows up. No one who wasn’t part of that army knew that it was arriving when it did. Also, keep in mind that he almost took the city before Tywin’s arrival. If not for Tyrion coming up with some clever, innovative tactics (that actually worked), his bravery in personally leading the counterattack on the besiegers, his rhetorical ability to shame the troops from abandoning a battle that a dwarf was willing to fight, Stannis would have been in the city and had enough forces to hold it for some time. He could have held it at least long enough to beach the Red Keep and kill Tywin’s family. After that, Tywin’s fighting the guy who’s (I think) next in line by Targaryan inheritance laws which knocks a leg out of his ability to keep his bannermen there as now they’re fighting against the legitimate king instead of for him. And it’s the guy who held Storm’s End with a skeleton force for a ridiculous amount of time against Mace Tyrell’s host. And he can’t keep his army in a prolonged siege of King’s Landing, because he’s STILL got Robb Stark tearing up his forces up North and poised to invade his own Westerlands.

      Also, keep in mind that Tywin’s ability to show up was influenced by, if not entirely dependent upon, Tyrion and Littlefinger’s diplomatic success in bringing the Tyrell’s onto the Lannister side. And even if the Tyrell host doesn’t oppose his march on King’s Landing, I’m not sure that Tywin would have had enough forces to come out on top without their direct aid.

      Once again, we see a point when almost everything had to go entirely Tywin’s way for the Lannisters to come out on top. So I disagree. It looks to me that King’s Landing was a very juicy strategic target, well worth taking.

      • Agreed. The difference of a few hours means Stannis is inside the city with his army where he’ll be incredibly difficult to dislodge as he can resupply from both land and see, and can easily reinforce his army.

        I’d also add that Tywin’s ability to show up was also predicated on Edmure stopping him at the Fords. If Tywin crosses west, the city falls regardless.

      • Celestial says:

        I am sorry, but are you two arguing in favor of a strategy which actually failed so spectacularly? Really?
        The “what if” scenarios play both ways. Tywin might have arrived “a few hours late” or “a few hours earlier”.
        Indeed, Tywin’s ability to show up was predicated on Edmure stopping him…And Tywin arriving at the last moment was predicated on the Lannister army actually marching west in the first place.
        Also, the assertion that Tywin’s arrival was a huge shock is not true, at least not for the defenders. The whole defense of KL hinged on Tywin succesfully relieving the city; Tyrion made repeated statements along these lines in ACOK and, otherwise, it does not make sense even to try holding the city, as there weren’t enough forces to repel an assault indefinetely. Why do you think Tyrion had the Mountain Men kill Stannis’ scouts? To blind him to the arrival of the relief force.

        Basically, what Stannis did was the equivalent of a burglar entering a bank when the guard was absent and trying to stuff his bags with cash, without having neutralized the guard first or without even knowing where the guard is.
        Now, it is technically possible for the respective burglar to make off with the loot before the guard returns, but, if he is caught in the act, it makes it into the news under the headline “Dunce of the day”.
        Tywin “might” have arrived a few hours later, but it is does not really matter: Stannis basically played the russian roulette with the fate of his army and that is something no competent commander should ever do.
        Any good commander should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Saying that Stannis would have won if “this” and “that” is pointless. Even Samwell Tarly could win a war if everything went according to his desires.

        And, btw, Tywin showing up did not depend on the Tyrells. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the Tyrells would have tried to bar his passages and Stannis himself knows that the Reach forces are likely hostile to him.

      • David Hunt says:


        The thing that I disagree with you about is that it seems to me that you think that a good plan can’t fail. It’s my opinion that Stannis came within hours of winning it all. If he’d made it into the city, he would have put Tywin into a real pickle. Tywin can’t sit there and lay siege to King’s Landing (KL). He has to deal with Robb Stark. He also can’t afford to have his army broken in an assault on KL…because he has to deal with Robb Stark.

        However, I think our main point of disagreement is that you don’t think that KL (perhaps any major stronghold) was worth taking while opposing armies are in the field. Going on that assumption, I’d say that you’re greatly underestimating the value of KL. First, Stannis needs some base of operations on the mainland. KL is a place to retreat to if things go badly, it’s the most important point of commerce on the East Coast so it’s a major source of income that he can use to supply and feed his army. Perhaps more important is KL’s political utility to him. Steven is far more competent than I am to address that aspect of matters, but certain things seem obvious to me.

        The Iron Throne in KL is THE ultimate goal that everyone is striving for. Whoever holds the Throne is instantly invested with a certain amount of legitimacy. Since he’s Robert’s actual legitimate heir, this effect is likely enhanced. If Stannis pulled Pycelle out of the black cells, he’d sing like a bird. We’ve seen in later books that the experience of his imprisonment seems to have broken him. The testimony of the Grand Maester would be just the sort of thing to put wind in Stannis’ political sails as he’s no longer just circulated unsubstantiated rumors about Joffrey’s bastardry. This legitimacy has real military utility. With Stannis sitting on the Iron Throne as Robert’s legitimate (and likely only surviving) heir, Tywin and Mace will start having problems keeping their bannermen who are now fighting for a rebel AGAINST the real king. Also, all of the central government of Westeros (such as it is) is run from King’s Landing. Stannis then has his hands on those levers of power.

        Finally, I think that he might be able to get the explicit support of the Martells if he promised them Tywin, Gregor Clegane, and Amory Lorch…if he did it while sitting on the Iron Throne. Their marriage pact with Viserys died with him, and Stannis has a major reputation for applying justice without favoritism. They might well believe him and the Martells have been nursing that vendetta for 15 years.

        In short, just because Stannis didn’t succeed in taking KL, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth taking. Form a tactical perspective, I’d argue that his real mistake was waiting too long before he assaulted the city. He wasted too much time negotiating with the Castellan of Storms End for the surrender of the keep (and Edric Storm). I believe I know why he did that, but if he hadn’t, I think he’d have been Stannis, First of His Name in fact.

        • Agreed. Assuming Tywin will march to the defense of King’s Landing is kind of undermined by the fact that he was actually marching west to the defense of the Westerlands, and only a fluke of luck ensured that he received the message in time.

      • Celestial says:

        David Hunt: How the hell is getting bogged in an assault against a fortified city and leaving yourself utterly vulnerable to a counterattack from outside by a relief force “a good plan”?
        You totally fail to understand that this was not some “deus ex machina” which no one could ever expect. Tyrion devised his strategy as to crush the besieging army between the city and the relief force. Basically, one can say that KL functioned as a bait for Stannis.
        Stalingrad is a very good example from contemporary history. There, the germans assaulted the city for almost 3 months, while ignoring the Soviet concentrations on their flanks and, when they were about to push the 62d Army into the Volga, they received a twin blow to their flank, which led to the destruction of the assaulting army. Stalingrad was important: it was an industrial city, controlled the navigation on the Volga and, if taken, could severe the Caucasus from the rest of USSR. If the German attack succeeded, it would have been a great blow to the Soviet Union. Yet, both Zeitzler and Manstein, the most important German commanders involved in the battle, considered it in their memoirs a great mistake, despite the advantages it could have gained them. Why? Because it exposed the German flank, defended by weak Axis forces, to massive Soviet counterattacks, if the German Army failed to destroy the Soviet strategic reserves during their summer advance (which is what happened).
        Another classic example is the siege of Wien in 1683. Another failure.
        Claiming that a plan which has obvious flaws, it failed in the end and it ignores a twenty-centuries old military tenet is “a good plan” is just stubborness.
        Why do you think Scipio Africanus didn’t rush to besiege Carthage when he landed in Africa in 203 BC, but he defeated in detail the remaining 2 Carthaginian armies, (one of which had been in Italy, but Scipio waited until it was recalled)? Being a city-state, taking Carthage would have ended the war in a single blow.

        Second, I know that KL is valuable. But let’s say Stannis decided to attack KL at any cost. Fine. Then what did he do to protect himself against a counterattack from outside? Nothing!
        There is historical precedent for this: when Caesar besieged Vercingetorix on Alesia, he was aware that he might get attacked by a relief army and, in order to protect himself from that, he heavily fortified his position.
        Was Stannis not aware that there was an intact Lannister army in the field who will undoubtedly try to rescue KL or he decided to leave this matter to Rh’llor?

      • Celestial says:

        This is what Tyrion thinks when asked whether KL will fall: “But if it does, pray that we can hold the Red Keep long enough for our lord father to march to our relief”. Tyrion is obviously expecting Tywin to reach KL, so your assertion is pulled out of thin air.

        “Assuming Tywin will march to KL” isn’t undermined by his march his west because Tywin’s army is not some canonball which, once fired, cannot be turned from its path. When Stannis will get close to KL, the first thing the garrison will do is to send a raven or a fast rider to Tywin. At that point, Stannis’ chance of success depends on how far away will Tywin be when he gets the news – a factor which Stannis has no control over and cannot even know.
        In OTL, Tywin was delayed by Edmure’s forces. But, even if not for that, he could have simply marched at a slower pace, changed his mind because he thought Robb could not take Lannisport or Casterly Rock anyway or decided to besiege Riverrun to force Robb back into the Riverlands, etc. There are many possibilities and it’s Stannis’ obligation to take them into account.
        For a commander, your idea that “Tywin will march west, thus he cannot be expected to relieve KL” is irresponsible.

        Are you just being a contrarian?

        • He’s *hoping* that Tywin will reach KL in time, but he doesn’t know that he will. In OTL, Tywin chooses to march AWAY from King’s Landing, which makes it less likely that he will.

          In OTL, Tyrion’s messenger ONLY got to him because of Edmure’s fighting. If Tywin had crossed the river, Edmure would be between him and the messenger and he wouldn’t have gotten the news in time. As it was, GRRM has to do some fancy footwork to get Tywin there in time – King’s Landing is 750 miles from the Red Fork after all – and even then it’s absolutely in the nick of time as the Goldcloaks have broken and Stannis’ army is beginning to build a foothold on the north bank.

      • Celestial says:

        Steve, forget about Stannis. Please answer the next question: would you attempt to cross a frozen river, without knowing how thick the ice is, in order to reach 1 million $ safe located on the other side?

      • Celestial says:

        Frankly speaking, Steve, I think you and David Hunt are not making any sense. On one hand, you are both arguing fiercely that KL was so HUGELY important that taking it would automatically make Stannis king, thus it was worth it for Stannis to throw everythinh he had at it. On the other hand, you are arguing that Stannis should have felt perfectly safe attacking KL because Tywin would abandon that HUGELY important target in order to march west, to confront an enemy which could not have taken the Lannister seats of power anyway.
        Your whole strategy seems to consist of: “Yeah, let’s totally attack the enemy capital, ’cause it will bring us victory! Wait, there’s a strong enemy army still moving freely in the field? Fuck them, they probably have other concerns”.
        Your insistence that “it was only because Edmure stopped Tywin” is completely pointless because Stannis marches towards KL before that event and he has no idea what Tywin will do. Tywin might continue west or he might reconsider his plans and go back to Harrenhall.
        Your argument in favor of KL’s strategic significance is simply not consistent with the assumption that Tywin will keep marching west.

        • That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying marching on King’s Landing is necessary politically and either draws out Tywin to fight Stannis on his own terms or Tywin’s political position collapses.

      • SpaceSquid says:

        Can’t one square that circle fairly easily, Celestial? All one needs to do is show that Stannis wants King’s Landing more than anything, and that Tywin wants Casterly Rock more than King’s Landing – both of which are pretty defensible suggestions. The idea that because Stannis wants X most of all forces Tywin to want NOT X most of all doesn’t fly. Wars aren’t necessarily zero-sum games when there’s only two sides involved; stick in a third and all sorts of weird orderings of priorities are possible.

      • Celestial says:

        Space Squid:

        No, it can’t. Keep in mind that I’m not arguing Stannis did not want KL most than everything. He probably did. I’m arguing that attacking KL, in those circumstances, was a major gaffe.
        The argument is not about the character’s motivation (which is what you referred to), but about the soundness of their decisions.
        As for your assumption about Tywin, there are 2 problems with it:

        1. Casterly Rock was not actually in danger.

        2. Most important, Stannis is not reading Tywin’s mind. If Stannis considers KL as the most important objective of war (and Steve and David Hunt make a convincing argument that KL’s fall could be a coup de grace for the Lannister cause), then he has to assume that it is the same for the enemy. It would be more than bizarre for Stannis to devise his plans according to the idea that Tywin would care less for KL.
        Unless he has some reliable information that Tywin is willing to sacrifice KL for the defence of Westerlands, Stannis is taking an irresponsible gamble.

        • 1. Casterly Rock isn’t in danger of an assault – but being starved out? Lannisport being sacked? His bannermen deserting him because he couldn’t protect them? All of those could happen. It’s the same thing with the fall of Winterfell – everyone understands the political logic of what happens when your home base is attacked and you’re not there to stop it.

          2. If Tywin marches for KL, then Stannis can face him at a time and place of Stannis’ choosing and the West falls in Tywin’s absence. If Tywin marches for the West, then KL falls in his absence and Stannis doesn’t have to worry about him.

      • SpaceSquid says:


        I think we might be talking at cross purposes; sorry if my post was muddled. What I’m trying to get at is that Stannis actions were not a gaffe (or at least, not a clear and major gaffe) because they were a reasonable response to Stannis’ view of Tywin’s motivations, which would obviously affect his actions. The two are intrinsically linked.

        Regarding your two points: first of all, the idea that Casterly Rock is in no danger strikes me as a pretty hard sell. Robb is in the Westerlands with no Lannister force available to stop him. We know he has has neither the forces nor the inclination to directly attack the Rock. Does Tywin? It’s been so long since I read ACoK that I could be forgetting something, but I don’t recall any suggestion that Stannis is unreasonable in assuming Tywin would want to kick Robb out of the Westerlands before all other considerations (hell, look what happened to Robb after Winterfell, er, fell).

        Even if the Rock itself remains untouched, Tywin’s entire public persona to date has made clear he is utterly obsessed with his reputation among his bannermen and the Westerlands in general. Expecting him to abandon them to a marauding army is utterly ridiculous, and indeed as others have pointed out, saving the Westerlands was exactly what he was trying to do when word got to him about King’s Landing. The only flaw in Stannis’ plan was assuming Tywin would actually succeed in getting an army through a region of the country which had already lost two catastrophic battles to his forces. If you want to argue that assumption was too great to base the entirety of one’s forces on, fair enough. But that’s the ballgame here.

        As for this:

        “Stannis is not reading Tywin’s mind. If Stannis considers KL as the most important objective of war (and Steve and David Hunt make a convincing argument that KL’s fall could be a coup de grace for the Lannister cause), then he has to assume that it is the same for the enemy. It would be more than bizarre for Stannis to devise his plans according to the idea that Tywin would care less for KL”

        I couldn’t possibly disagree more. It’s simply ludicrous to suggest that during a war involving four separate forces (with a fifth recently defeated and of uncertain loyalty, and two more that refuse to announce their intentions) that group 1’s preference order for results must be perfectly mirrored by group 2’s preference order for preventing results.

        Not that it matters in this particular case. If I’m right about Tywin’s priorities, your point is completely shot through. If I’m wrong, then your point is irrelevant; stopping Stannis becomes Tywin’s greatest objective not because one should always mirror one’s opponents interests, but because on this occasion both are actually attempting to acquire/retain the same prize.

        Either way, though, the idea that it’s ridiculous to try and deduce what your opponent values most, and the idea that what your opponent wants most must be what you most want to stop, strikes me as terrible strategic thinking. Not least because if your theory holds, Robb should have ridden to the attack on King’s Landing, since according to you Tywin’s number one aim is to relieve the city, and therefore Robb can want nothing more than to see it fall.

      • Celestial says:

        Space Squid:

        1. We do not know how Stannis viewed Tywin’s motivations. But, since Stannis regarded KL as the major prize of the war, he would have needed a very serious reason to consider that Tywin might have other priorities. If you have such information, please provide.

        2. “We know he has has neither the forces nor the inclination to directly attack the Rock. Does Tywin?”

        He can easily infer. Tywin knows the approximate size of Robb’s forces at Riverrun (there is a comment about this in AGoT, where Kevan says that, together with Edmure, Robb’s numbers might exceed their own, which indicates they were estimating Robb’s forces at around 20,000 or slightly more). During the Battle of the Fords, Tywin has the possibility to assess the size of the forces left back with Edmure (around 12,000). From this, he can figure out that Robb invaded Westerlands with around 8,000 men, not accounting for the losses he might have incurred. This is not far from the actual number (6,000). Both these numbers are insufficient to assault a fortress like Casterly Rock, which is ranked the strongest in all Westeros, and Tywin likely knows it.

        3. “Stannis is unreasonable in assuming Tywin would want to kick Robb out of the Westerlands before all other considerations” – as pointed out, we do not know what Stannis is actually assuming.
        And you mentioning Robb does no favors to your argument, because it points out (both to you and to Stannis) that a lord might not necessarily abandon all his other obligations to defend his homeland.
        Your argument is frankly absurd: you are claiming that Stannis should assume that Tywin would want to defend Westerlands at all costs and you base your claim on Robb NOT making such a decision in a similar situation. Weird.

        4. “indeed as others have pointed out, saving the Westerlands was exactly what he was trying to do when word got to him about King’s Landing” – and Tywin could just as easily change his mind, which is exactly what he did in the end.

        5. “It’s simply ludicrous to suggest that during a war involving four separate forces (with a fifth recently defeated and of uncertain loyalty, and two more that refuse to announce their intentions) that group 1′s preference order for results must be perfectly mirrored by group 2′s preference order for preventing results”.

        This has to be the most dumb thing I have read or heard in my whole life.
        If Group 1’s prefered target would destroy the ability of Group 2 to wage war, then yes, Group 2’s preference order for preventing results would be to prevent the annihilation of that target by Group 1 (or anyone else).
        Are you seriously arguing that if Group 1 attacks Objective A and the fall of Objective A will lead to Group 1 winning the war, then Group 2 (to which Objective A belongs) should not be expected to try to save Objective A at all costs?
        There are only 2 possibilities here:
        a. KL is indeed the biggest prize of the war; Steve and Hunt made a convincing case that it is and Stannis certainly thinks so. In this case, to assume that Group 2 (Lannister) will not try to prevent its fall because “they might have other preferences” means, in translation, to assume Tywin is a complete dunce. Since Tywin does not have the reputation of a complete idiot, on what basis do you assume that ” group 1′s preference order for results does not have to be perfectly mirrored by group 2′s preference order for preventing results”?
        b. KL is not the biggest prize of the war and, in that case, why is Stannis wasting men and time attacking it?

        6. “If I’m right about Tywin’s priorities, your point is completely shot through”.

        You are obviously not right about Tywin’s priorities, because he marched west only as long as he thought KL was not in immediate danger. Once he was informed KL was attacked, Tywin made his priorities perfectly clear.

        7. “If I’m wrong, then your point is irrelevant; stopping Stannis becomes Tywin’s greatest objective not because one should always mirror one’s opponents interests, but because on this occasion both are actually attempting to acquire/retain the same prize.”

        I am sorry to rain on your parade, but there is no difference between “attempting to acquire/retain the same prize” and “mirrorring one’s opponents interests”.

        8. “Not least because if your theory holds, Robb should have ridden to the attack on King’s Landing, since according to you Tywin’s number one aim is to relieve the city, and therefore Robb can want nothing more than to see it fall.”

        Your argument is pointless, because Robb never had the possibility to ride towards KL without confronting Tywin first. The latter’s army has always been between Robb and KL, thus your example is meaningless.

        9. “idea that it’s ridiculous to try and deduce what your opponent values most, and the idea that what your opponent wants most must be what you most want to stop, strikes me as terrible strategic thinking”

        The assessment of the target’s value is not based on subjective factors, but on the objective assessment of KL’s as a game changer. When you attack a target which can win you the war, you start with the assumption that the enemy will defend it at all costm unless you have precise information that the enemy undervalues the respective target.
        To do otherwise, that is to simply assume that the enemy has different priorities just because, means you are relying on the enemy being incompetent. Which is an awful assumption to make, especially if the enemy is not known as such.

        I’d say that, since the events in ASOIF are known, that influences the opinions, but imagine the next scenario:

        Year is 1750, you command a 100,000 men British army which has just invaded northern France. Somewhere east of Paris there is a French army of 100,000 men, but you don’t know exactly where. You have some information that the respective might move further eastwards to confront a 60,000 Austrian army which has just invaded Burgundy. You can march against Paris and try to capture it, which will win the war, or march against the French Army, which, in case of victory, will also win the war.
        What do you pick from the next options:

        1. Start pursuing the French army so you can give battle on terrain and a time of your choosing, maybe even link with the Austrian army to achieve numerical superiority.

        2. Attempt to establish communications with the Austrian forces to make sure the French army will not bother you while you are besieging Paris.

        3. Start besieging Paris, without paying any attention to what else is happening in the theater and assuming that the French Army will rather defend Burgundy than Paris, because, while you believe taking Paris will make France capitulate and you want it most for this reason, the French *might* have a different opinion.

        Which option you go for? (Question addressed as well to Steve and David)

        • 1. The reason is built into Westerosi politics – you have to defend your home castle at all costs. Hence Renly turning back to defend Storm’s End, or Robb’s political position crumbling when Winterfell falls, or Tywin marching west. It’s a consistent pattern of behavior.

          2. Assaulting a fortress isn’t the only option – starving it out or taking it by treachery are other options. Moreover, taking Lannisport was also possible if Robb brought along siege equipment. Even without those things happening, Robb devastates the Westerlands, and Tywin can’t ignore that if he wants to keep his army in the field.

          3. Robb did make such a decision – in ASOS, he pulls out of the Riverlands abandoning his conquests there, because a King without a castle is nothing.

          4. But an army can’t stop on a dime. Tywin marched 300 miles in the wrong direction – that’s twenty days additional distance from King’s Landing minimum, and Harrenhal is 350 miles from King’s Landing to begin with.

      • SpaceSquid says:

        Numbers. Splendid! That will be helpful.

        1. My comments were probably a bit diffuse last time, so let me take this opportunity to try and clarify/expand/rethink. It’s not that I think the possible/probable loss of his western holdings would take precedence over an actual ongoing attack on KL – indeed, we know it didn’t – it’s that such losses to his homelands took precedence on preparing defences for an exceptionally likely attack which could come very quickly. It is quite certain that this is Tywin’s policy, because this is what he does. He clearly considers kicking Robb out of the west as more important than ensuring King’s Landing is safe. He is certainly risking KL over the west, which makes scoffing at the idea that the capital is clearly more important to him strange.

        2. I appreciate the reminders from ACok, since as I say my memory is rusty. It is perhaps watching Season 3 of the show that has resulted in my thinking concentrating on Casterly Rock. That said, 8000 men running loose around one’s home is a distinct problem, even if they can’t take out the largest castle, especially if Robb decides to employ some tips from the Gregor Clegane book of war. This is to say nothing of Tywin having already underestimated Robb twice. Assuming there was no damage the Young Wolf could do with a highly mobile force of six to eight thousand men – who have already obliterated a far larger army by travelling through presumed impassable mountains – would be an odd choice for any general to make after two major defeats, especially for a man so fixated on ensuring no-one is his homelands questions his strength.

        And, once again, this ignores the fact that trying to be rid of Robb is exactly what Tywin decides to do, until imminent disaster becomes ongoing disaster.

        3. Your argument here boils down to “assuming Robb and Tywin are the same person, then…”. I’m not arguing all lords will defend their homeland over other concerns. I’m arguing Tywin would, and Tywin tried, and we can see in Robb’s choice to not do the same what can happen if one abandons one’s home.

        Not so much weird, then, as understanding different people react different to the similar events. The best counter here is that Stannis shouldn’t presume to know Tywin’s reactions as well as I’m suggesting he thinks he does. But I’m clearly not arguing all lords should react in the way there was every reason to believe Tywin would.

        4. ” and Tywin could just as easily change his mind, which is exactly what he did in the end.”

        Whilst six days further to the west than he ended up being, and sandwiched between Robb’s raiders, the newly reforged army of the Riverlands, and potentially the northern foot. As I said last time, there are two assumptions I believe Stannis is operating on. One is that Tywin will march west (which, since he did, I have a hard time listening to the suggestion Stannis made a mistake there). The second is that that march west would be successful. I’m entirely open to arguments about why that was a bad call. But you’re not making those; you’re focusing on the call that was clearly correct.

        5. “This has to be the most dumb thing I have read or heard in my whole life.”

        I doubt that, but do continue.

        “Are you seriously arguing that if Group 1 attacks Objective A and the fall of Objective A will lead to Group 1 winning the war, then Group 2 (to which Objective A belongs) should not be expected to try to save Objective A at all costs?”

        There are two things you pass over here. The first is that there is more than one way to knock the Lannisters out of the war. King’s Landing is one. Razing the Westerlands is the other. One removes the Iron Throne, the other the homelands of the family. If Tywin was held at swordpoint to choose one over the other, I submit it is not obvious that he would choose the Throne. Indeed, I think it’s obvious he would do the opposite.

        Now, you make a good case that I’ve overestimated the danger of losing the Westerlands in the short-term. Still, the risk was clearly sufficient that Tywin chose that as the more pressing concern – 8,000 men in the west was a bigger worry to him than the chance of a massive attack on the capital.

        Which brings me to the second important issue: even if (as you’re arguing) two sides see the same objective as equally important in their war, they do not necessarily place equal weight on that war as oppose to their other concerns. Stannis wants to be King of the Seven Kingdoms. Tywin wants his family’s powerbase to extend as far from the Westerlands as far as possible. These are not the same, and so the definition of what constitutes winning the War of Five Kings is not the same. If Tywin loses KL it’s a terrible, humiliating blow with major repercussions.

        This is where your a/b formulation falls apart completely. Steve and Hunt have made a convincing case that it’s the fastest way to knock the Lannisters out of the war in the east. Whilst, as I say, I take your point that the war in the west might not be as critical to Tywin as I’d originally suggested, your constant insistence that because Stannis only cares about the eastern war Tywin must too is flatly untrue.

        Or, to answer your original question: yes. Yes, I am arguing that you should not defend objective A at all costs, if “all costs” includes objective B which will also lose the war.

        6. “You are obviously not right about Tywin’s priorities, because he marched west only as long as he thought KL was not in immediate danger. Once he was informed KL was attacked, Tywin made his priorities perfectly clear.”

        Yes, this was poorly argued on my part. As I hope I’ve made clear now, though, the question is not over whether Tywin values the Westerlands over King’s Landing (though I continue to believe he does), but how high the risk of losing the capitol has to climb before he will risk the devastation of large parts of the Westerlands. It’s a complicated equation that factors in both the risk to each area and the length of time that area can be left under assault without defence.

        And again, Stannis’ assessment of how Tywin would react was dead on. The misjudgement was not of the lion, but of the trout.

        7. “I am sorry to rain on your parade, but there is no difference between “attempting to acquire/retain the same prize” and “mirrorring one’s opponents interests”.

        Not true. One is a subset of the other. The same objective can be sought for very different reasons in immensely different contexts, and the fact both forces want something does not mean they will place the same importance on it. As I’ve argued above, it you have two equally important objectives, you cannot mirror the preferences of the enemy who has only one.

        Which is exactly what has happened here. For Stannis King’s Landing it the only goal. For Tywin it’s one of two competing needs in opposing directions. Thus both sides want the city, but not as a mirror to each other, for all that either way the eastern war will be settled by the winner.

        8. “Your argument is pointless, because Robb never had the possibility to ride towards KL without confronting Tywin first. The latter’s army has always been between Robb and KL, thus your example is meaningless.”

        Surely the point is clear, though. I mean, fine, I was kind of thinking Robb’s mounted troops could get to KL in time to plausibly attack the Lannisters in the rear, but maybe not. The point remains that according to your mirroring suggestions Robb should have entirely focussed upon supporting Stannis’ assault on the city (though in the early stages he presumably would have wanted to do so on Renly’s behalf before the latter’s assassination). If your mirroring idea holds water, knocking over King’s Landing MUST be Robb’s number one objective, because it is Stannis’, and therefore by equivalence Tywin’s, and therefore by equivalence Robb’s. The only alternative is to accept that in a war with three players, not everyone will – or can – attribute the same importance to each target that their enemies/opponents have.

        9. “The assessment of the target’s value is not based on subjective factors, but on the objective assessment of KL’s as a game changer. When you attack a target which can win you the war, you start with the assumption that the enemy will defend it at all costs unless you have precise information that the enemy undervalues the respective target.

        To do otherwise, that is to simply assume that the enemy has different priorities just because, means you are relying on the enemy being incompetent. Which is an awful assumption to make, especially if the enemy is not known as such.”

        It’s so transparently clear that the assumptions made are not “just because” and that there are light-years of difference between relying on Tywin being incompetent and relying on him having to take risks to deal with competing desires, that I’m just not sure what to even do with this. Your position in this discussion seems to be entirely predicated on the fact that there is only one war going on, and that an accurate assessment of how Tywin prioritised various developments in each war was fatally flawed because Tywin was prevented from reaping the results of his choices.

        Your France analogy is interesting, but it has major flaws. You mistake – despite it being mentioned several times – the successful destruction of Stannis’ intelligence gathering with “not trying” to gather intelligence at all (and I note you’re assuming you can’t know where an army is unless you want to engage it in battle, at which point a surprise attack magically becomes impossible). Secondly, it understates the likelihood of the French Army moving towards Austria (though I agree completely that Stannis would have been more sensible reaching out to Robb until after the Lannisters were dead). Third, it fails to take into account the fact that Stannis needed a quick victory. He knows he lacks his brother’s charm, and that sooner or later elements of his force will peel off or even rebel; especially if the Tyrells get it together enough to tell their bannermen to knock this crap off, and once the Reach lords realise that the longer they’re out in the field the more likely Dorne is to take advantage of their absence.

        So really, which I’d choose doesn’t particularly matter – especially since I’m a legendarily terrible war games player. FTR, though, I’d opt for the Stannis strategy just to get things resolved as quickly as possible.

      • Celestial says:

        Space Squid: The major problem with your argument is that you are basing a lot of your arguments on statements which are not actually correct.

        1. “it’s that such losses to his homelands took precedence on preparing defences for an exceptionally likely attack which could come very quickly”.

        That is false. Tywin started towards Westerlands when Stannis seemed bogged down around Storm’s End, thus the perspective on an attack against KL seemed remote. That was certainly the opinion in the Lannister camp. Tyrion went livid when he found out about the quick fall of Storm’s End and lamented that the stronghold should have resisted for at least half a year, enough time for Tywin to defeat Robb Stark.
        Tywin heading towards Westerlands does not mean at all he prioritizes defending his homeland – KL simply did not seem threatened at that time.
        When Tywin leaves Harrenhall towards west, he does so in the knowledge that Stannis is busy around SE. Penrose’s assassination completely changes the strategic picture – the situation which allowed Tywin to think he has the time to defend Westerlands does not exist anymore, which in turn can make Tywin reconsider his strategy.
        Stannis should have considered that a change in the strategic situation at SE can easily mean a change in Tywin’s plans as well.

        2. Argument 2 does not make any sense for this debate. You said that Tywin tried to defend Westerlands until “imminent disaster becomes ongoing disaster”, in other words, until KL came under attack – ergo Tywin put defending KL first. Wasn’t that my point all along?

        3. “I’m arguing Tywin would, and Tywin tried, and we can see in Robb’s choice to not do the same what can happen if one abandons one’s home”. You are arguing against established facts.
        You claimed that one should not scoff at a potential Stannis assumption that defending Westerlands was more important to Tywin than defending KL.
        The problem is that Tywin “would” and “tried” only when KL seemed secure.

        4. “As I said last time, there are two assumptions I believe Stannis is operating on. One is that Tywin will march west (which, since he did, I have a hard time listening to the suggestion Stannis made a mistake there). The second is that that march west would be successful. I’m entirely open to arguments about why that was a bad call.”

        Stannis is not *assuming* Tywin will march west. Stannis *knows* Tywin did that. When Tywin made his call, Stannis was at Storm’s End. If Stannis marches north, there is a very realistic possibility that the war becomes a “Race for KL” with Stannis rushing from the south and Tywin rushing from the west. The problem Stannis is confronted with:
        – he cannot know where will Tywin be when he gets the news about KL;
        – he cannot know how fast will Tywin march;
        – he cannot know how long the storming of KL will take.
        Stannis’ success depends on Tywin being far enough from KL, not marching fast enough and the capital falling quickly enough. Basically, Stannis walked a very thin line here and it’s no wonder he fell flat.

        “you’re focusing on the call that was clearly correct.” – and regarding this, are you seriously calling that call “correct” when you yourself admit that its success depended on a second factor (Tywin marching unhindered through Riverlands) which was awfully uncertain? Are you for real?
        Both factors are intrinsically linked. There’s no point in hoping Tywin will go to Westerlands if he won’t be able to make it there anyway.

        5. Argument 5 is self-defeating. There is no point arguing that razing the Westerlands could have kicked the Lannisters out of the war when you admit you over-estimated the danger.

        “Stannis wants to be King of the Seven Kingdoms. Tywin wants his family’s powerbase to extend as far from the Westerlands as far as possible. These are not the same, and so the definition of what constitutes winning the War of Five Kings is not the same. If Tywin loses KL it’s a terrible, humiliating blow with major repercussions.”

        Actually, the definition is the same, because the goals of Stannis and Tywin are mutually exclusive. Stannis king means the execution of Tywin, Jaime, Cersei and the kids and the downfall of Lannister power to a level probably below that during Tytos Lannister.
        What exactly are you trying to imply saying that “the definition is not the same”? That Tywin and Stannis could reach a consensus?

        “Yes, I am arguing that you should not defend objective A at all costs, if “all costs” includes objective B which will also lose the war” – the loss of Objective B will not lead to the loss of the war, as you yourself admitted and is established in the book (Robb kept pillaging the Westerlands for a while after the Battle of the Fords and returned to Riverrun of his own accord). Ergo, your point is irrelevant, as it is based on a false premisis.

        6. “Stannis’ assessment of how Tywin would react was dead on”

        You mean, Tywin attacking him in the flank and rear and destroying his army?

        I don’t think you realized what hole you tossed Stannis into. I suggest to imagine the next scenario: before the commissioning of the Titanic, the ship captain gathered a collosal amount of data about the ocean streams, about the iceberg routes, the last testimonies about the location of icebergs and about the state of the polar cap. He calculated and reached the conclusion that, if the ship would sail with a certain speed and on a certain route, then on the night of 14 April the iceberg will hit the Titanic. Everyone praises the captain for his smart assessment. And the captain sails with that exact speed, on that exact route, and, in the night of 14/15 April, at the predicted location, BANG! it hits the iceberg. And, afterwards, the captain’s fans announce happily: the captain’ assessment of the iceberg’s trajectory was dead on!

        On a serious note, Stannis assessed nothing. He knew Tywin went west. Stannis FAILED to assess that, once he himself would march towards KL, so would Tywin.

        7. “Not true. One is a subset of the other. The same objective can be sought for very different reasons in immensely different contexts, and the fact both forces want something does not mean they will place the same importance on it”

        In the context of the Lannister/Baratheon dispute, it is very much true.
        – the reason of Stannis/Tywin is the same: gaining the throne (one for himself, the other for his family)
        – the context is the same: the civil war for the throne;
        – the importance is the same: Tywin turned for KL immediately he was informed Stannis marched for it (having in mind the time required for the news to reach Tywin in Riverlands, it means Tyrion sent after him immediately after he found out about the fall of Storm’s End; so, it is likely that, when Tywin went back, he did not even know whether the siege had actually begun).

        “As I’ve argued above, it you have two equally important objectives”. – They are not two equally important objectives. This is factually disproved in the text, so give it up.

        8. “The point remains that according to your mirroring suggestions Robb should have entirely focussed upon supporting Stannis’ assault on the city” – Robb tried to do just that – by bogging Tywin down in Westerlands and give Stannis enough time to take the capital.

        9. “that there are light-years of difference between relying on Tywin being incompetent and relying on him having to take risks to deal with competing desires, that I’m just not sure what to even do with this”

        You are not talking about “relying on Tywin having to take risks”. You are talking about risking an entire army on the assumption that Tywin will blunder sufficiently in order for Stannis to win.

        “the successful destruction of Stannis’ intelligence gathering with “not trying” to gather intelligence at all (and I note you’re assuming you can’t know where an army is unless you want to engage it in battle, at which point a surprise attack magically becomes impossible). ”

        What do you mean by destruction of Stannis intelligence or “you can’t know where an army is unless…”
        What any of this has to do with the example I gave you?

        “it understates the likelihood of the French Army moving towards Austria” – you don’t know where the French army is. It is simply too far away for scouting missions to be efficient.
        The typical marching distance of a regular army is between 15-18 miles per day. A cavalry unit typically covers between 30 and 40 miles per day (American civil war standard). From a scout you could expect to cover 50 miles per day. That means you can expect to be accurately informed by the enemy’s movements only over a radius of 100 miles around you.
        That is because, when a scout detachment makes contact, if they need more than 2 days to relay that information, it means the enemy army could be more than 30 miles away from its original position. A margin of error bigger than that makes scouting information unreliable.
        Tywin’s army was more than 500 miles away, which made it impossible for Stannis to keep an eye on Tywin’s movements (and, again, this points out Tywin’s turned back before the siege actually began, otherwise it would have been impossible to cover that distance in time).
        What Stannis could (and should) have done is to send a message to Edmure Tully by raven (which he actually did, but only to announce the falls of Storm’s End), pointing out that he was about to attack KL and that it was in the best interest of both of them for Tywin to be bogged down in the Riverlands as long as possible. Case closed, all hail King Stannis. He did not, though.

        “Third, it fails to take into account the fact that Stannis needed a quick victory. ” – Why do you assume that Stannis could have gained a quick victory only at KL? Consider the consequences what happens if Stannis bypasses the city and marches against Tywin.
        First of all, with no attack on KL, Tywin has no incentive to turn east – which means he will get further away from his potential Tyrell allies.
        When Stannis reaches the Riverlands, he has the possibility to join forces with Roose Bolton’s host. That means Tywin having behind him an army of about 32,000 men. So, when the Battle of the Fords occurrs, there are 2 possible outcomes:
        – Edmure succeeds, in which case Tywin gets sandwiched between Edmure’s 12,000 and Stannis army of 20,000 or 32,000 if Bolton joins along; all hail King Stannis;
        – Edmure fails and his army is defeated, which means Riverlands falling under Stannis’ “protectorate”, while Tywin will have to further fight Robb with a depleted army in the Westerlands; if Robb wins, case closed; if Robb fails, then Stannis will confront a Lannister which suffered severe losses while his own troops would outnumber it 2 or 3 to 1 (depending on the cooperation of the Riverlands). Again, all hail king Stannis. While some northern lords like Greatjon wanted independence, some Riverlanders were toying with the idea of making common cause with the Baratheons (Edmure himself, Frey and Bracken).

      • Celestial says:


        1. You are making statements which are not supported by the text. I have no issue in principle with your argument that “marching on King’s Landing is necessary politically and either draws out Tywin to fight Stannis on his own terms or Tywin’s political position collapses.” If Stannis were to use KL as a bait for Tywin, that’s fair enough. But Stannis did not actually draw out Tywin to fight on his own terms; he made no contingency plans in this regard.
        If you have not noticed, one of the historical examples I mentioned was Alesia, where Caesar prepared for a possible assault by a relief force, forced the gauls to fight on his own terms and won.
        How exactly did Stannis forced Tywin to fight on his own terms?

        2. “Tywin actually does show he cares more about the Westerlands than the Capitol.” – as I pointed out to Solid Squid, when Tywin started west, it seemed Stannis had to besiege Storm’s End for a very long time.

        3. “Casterly Rock isn’t in danger of an assault – but being starved out? Lannisport being sacked?” – having in mind the precedents of siege warfare, it could take more than a year for Casterly Rock to be starved out. And Lannisport can’t be sacked without taking Casterly Rock first. Also, Robb does not have enough forces for that, which Tywin might likely know well before if he still receives reports by raven from Lannisport and Casterly Rock.

        4. “If Tywin marches for KL, then Stannis can face him at a time and place of Stannis’ choosing and the West falls in Tywin’s absence”.

        Yeah, right. Too bad nothing of this sort happened. Stannis faced him with his fleet burnt and his army divided by the river.
        And I haven’t noticed any victory parades by Northern forces through Lannisport, even though Robb remained in Westerlands as long as he desired.

        5. “The reason is built into Westerosi politics – you have to defend your home castle at all costs. Hence Renly turning back to defend Storm’s End, or Robb’s political position crumbling when Winterfell falls, or Tywin marching west. It’s a consistent pattern of behavior.”

        Since Tywin is hand of the king, his nephew sits the Iron Throne and the object of the war is the same throne, Casterly Rock is no longer the sole “home castle” of the Lannisters – and not even the most important one. If Tywin wants his family to become the ruling dinasty of Westeros, then KL is their “home castle”.

        You have said yourself: with KL lost, Tywin’s position crumbles.

        6. “Robb did make such a decision – in ASOS, he pulls out of the Riverlands abandoning his conquests there, because a King without a castle is nothing.” He pulls out after Blackwater because his position became untenable – before that, he did not react to the fall of Winterfell for quite a long while.

        7. “But an army can’t stop on a dime. Tywin marched 300 miles in the wrong direction – that’s twenty days additional distance from King’s Landing minimum, and Harrenhal is 350 miles from King’s Landing to begin with.”

        I have nothing to say to this. You are spitting in the eye of actual events for the sake of supporting a dubious argument, which is pretty sad.

        • 1. I don’t think there’s a reason for getting heated about this. My argument is that Stannis has an either-or situation going on; as Tywin chooses the West, he marches on the city.

          2. It appeared so to Tyrion, but we don’t know what intelligence Tywin was working with. Bottom line – Tywin marched west, not east.

          3. Casterly Rock *may* have a year’s supplies, and it may not. Storm’s End had those supplies, but it also knew a siege was coming after Ashford and had time to prepare. Casterly Rock was not expecting a siege because the Lannisters in the West expected Robb to besiege the Golden Tooth instead. Lannisport absolutely can be sacked without taking Casterly Rock as long as the Casterly Rock garrison isn’t big enough to sally forth. Robb didn’t have the *supplies* to sack Lannisport, but there’s no way Tywin could have known that when word got out that the Golden Tooth had been bypassed and his army at Oxcross was destroyed. Lannisport and Casterly Rock weren’t near enough to provide intelligence.

          4. Again, this is an either-or situation: Tywin marched west, not east. Stannis reacted accordingly. Had Tywin marched east, it’s fair to say that he would have acted differently. As for Robb’s situation, Tywin didn’t know that.

          5. Except that Tywin doesn’t act that way – he stays at Harrenhal rather than marching to King’s Landing in AGOT/most of ACOK despite Cersei’s command, and when he makes a choice about which way to march out of Harrenhal, he marches to Casterly Rock first.

          6. Robb makes the decision to pull north almost immediately after he gets back.

          7. This is geographic fact – look at the map.

      • Celestial says:

        1. Asking you to explain how exactly did Stannis forced Tywin to fight on his own “terms” is not “getting heated”.

        As for “getting heated”, well, I openly confess I have a love/hate opinion about you. While I’m greatly interested in this blog, due to being a PhD historian specialized in this exact period (late Middle Ages/early modern period) and a military history buff at the same time, and agree with many of your points, I also find your argumentation being problematic at times, because (in my opinion) you sometimes resort to making outlandish statement in order not to admit being wrong.
        I apologize if I seem too blunt, but I want to make it perfectly clear what I think.

        2. “It appeared so to Tyrion, but we don’t know what intelligence Tywin was working with. Bottom line – Tywin marched west, not east.”

        It is likely that Tyrion was in communication with his father at Harrenhall. It is often mentioned that Cersei sent ravens to her father to call him to KL and Tyrion managed to contact him to ask for his help against Stannis, so there is no reason to assume they were not keeping in touch.

        3. “Casterly Rock *may* have a year’s supplies, and it may not”. Such strongholds served as major granaries for their owners. Moreso, in ACOK winter was about to come and we know of lords who had already started hoarding supplies. It is unlikely that Casterly Rock was lacking, albeit I admit there is no way to know for sure.
        Also, what do you mean by Robb lacking “supplies” to sack Lannisport? I don’t recall this part, could you elaborate?
        Robb had already taken a good number of castles in the Westerlands (and their granaries), many settlements could have been pillaged (and probably were), so what supplies was he lacking (we are talking here about an assault, not a siege)?
        We have mentions of Mormont having captured “herds of cattle” which should have sufficient for Robb’s small army.
        Maybe you mean siege equipment?

        4. “Again, this is an either-or situation: Tywin marched west, not east. Stannis reacted accordingly. Had Tywin marched east, it’s fair to say that he would have acted differently. As for Robb’s situation, Tywin didn’t know that.”

        In ACOK, Tyrion was informed about Battle of Oxcross in the greatest detail. Since he was likely in permanent contact with his father and who sent him the message could have sent a similar one to Harrenhall, I would say Tywin was likely more informed about Robb’s “adventures” than you give him credit for.
        As for Stannis “reacting accordingly”, fine, have it your way. If Stannis reacted to Tywin marching west, how on Earth did he know Tywin wasn’t laying a trap for him, to flatten his army against the walls of KL? It certainly ended that way.

        5. “Except that Tywin doesn’t act that way – he stays at Harrenhal rather than marching to King’s Landing in AGOT/most of ACOK despite Cersei’s command, and when he makes a choice about which way to march out of Harrenhal, he marches to Casterly Rock first.”

        Tyrion’s assessments: “From Harrenhal it is *a straight, swift march down the kingsroad*. Renly will scarce have unlimbered his siege engines before Father takes him in the rear. His host will be the hammer, the city walls the anvil. It makes a lovely picture.”
        “Harrenhal is close enough to the fords of the Trident so that Roose Bolton cannot bring the northern foot across to join with the Young Wolf’s horse. Stark cannot march on King’s Landing without taking Harrenhal first, and even with Bolton he is not strong enough to do that.”
        “Cersei was not appeased. ‘I want you to make Father bring his army to King’s Landing’. ‘Where it will serve no purpose but to make you feel safe’.”

        Does that answer your concern? There was absolutely no purpose in going to KL at that point. The city was not threatened and, from Harrenhall, Tywin could relieve the capital easily.
        I’m not sure how do you think this supports your argument. Harrenhall is much closer to KL than to Casterly Rock. If Tywin valued the Rock more, he should have gone to Golden Tooth.
        As for Tywin making out for Westerlands, as I pointed out, KL was not attacked at that time. The danger for both objectives was not equal when Tywin made his choice, thus you cannot argue that going to Westerlands tells us something about Tywin’s priorities. Bottom line – when Westerlands and KL were both attacked, Tywin choose KL first. This is a fact.

        6. Yes – *after* Blackwater, when it became clear his Westerlands campaign hadn’t accomplished his strategic purpose.

        7. So is Tywin stopping and turning his army “on a dime” and marching more than 600 miles to chase Stannis away.
        You cannot argue that “an army cannot stop on a dime” when in the books it happened exactly that way.
        If you want to say that Martin stretched the credibility (again) with that, fair enough.

        • 1. I kind of feel the same way, that I’m pointing to textual evidence you don’t acknowledge. You can get a bit tendentious, not just with me but with many of the commentators here. I generally don’t like to close threads because I like free-wheeling discussion, but let’s keep it fun, eh?

          2. Fair enough, but wouldn’t that cut my way as well? Tywin marches west right after news arrives of Oxcross and Renly’s death, when it’s not at all clear that Stannis is going to delay at Storm’s End.

          3. Robb says that he didn’t take Lannisport because he didn’t have siege equipment to take his army over the walls.

          4. Tyrion got wildly exaggerated tales of wargs, not precise troop numbers. And Riverrun is just down the road.

          5. Tyrion makes some good points, but Harrenhal is still 300 miles from King’s Landing. That’s not a trivial distance. And Tywin still had 10,000 men and a castle guarding the Westerlands when he made for Harrenhal, and even then his lords were screaming for them to get back to the Westerlands. But when news comes out that Robb has demolished his army in the west and bypassed the Golden Tooth, he marches west to stop him.

          6. These things happened really close together. Tywin force-marches from the Battle of the Fords to Blackwater, and to get to Riverrun when he does, Robb must have gone back right after he hears. And the moment he’s at Riverrun, he goes for marrying Edmure to the Freys. The moment he hears about the burning of Winterfell, he’s off to take Moat Cailin.

          7. He doesn’t turn on a dime though — he’s fighting at the Fords for three days, which allows the messenger to get there just in the nick of time, and it takes him considerable time to get back. Even then, I think Martin is really stretching to get everything right: he adds a storm to delay Stannis’ fleet, he puts a whole fleet of barges big enough to float an army at Bitterbridge, and even then an hour or two and Stannis is in the city.

      • Celestial says:


        1. In this case, what makes it rather difficult for me to acknowledge your argument is that Stannis’ decision runs contrary to conventional military wisdom and ended up with a defeat. It’s pretty hard to agree that Stannis made a good decision when he did exactly what many military theorists advise not to do and also failed.
        Can you provide a precedent which actually ended up in success?
        The closest I can think of was the attack on Paris in March 1814, which destroyed Napoleon’s political position, but the Coalition could afford to take that chance because their numerical superiority was huge. Blucher and Schwarzenberg’s armies alone, which were the main ones fighting against Napoleon during the campaign of 1814, had more 250,000 men, while Napoleon could never muster more than 70,000.
        Stannis did not have such advantage. His army was rather small, 20,000 strong, and, more than that, consisted mostly of cavalry (in the text they are described as “knights and freeriders”), which are not exactly the most adequate troops for storming a city.

        2. “Fair enough, but wouldn’t that cut my way as well? Tywin marches west right after news arrives of Oxcross and Renly’s death, when it’s not at all clear that Stannis is going to delay at Storm’s End. ”

        It is not clear whether Tywin did anticipate a danger to KL *right then*. Assuming otherwise would not be consistent with Tywin’s future behaviour: it makes no sense to go west only to be forced to turn back when Stannis made his move, so it’s likely that Tywin knew Stannis was about to invest KL (in AGoT, we see Tywin mentioning that he receives reports from Varys, so this is probably where his information comes from).
        Alas, we’re lacking a POV in Tywin’s camp, but we can use Tyrion’s POV to determine the timing.
        We find out about Oxcross in Sansa 32 in ACOK, when Lancel announces it to the court. It is likely that when the news reached KL, it also reached Harrenhall.
        The Lannister camp finds out about Renly’s death in Tyrion 36 and Tywin marches in Arya 38.
        You make a good point pointing out that is also not clear what Stannis will do, but, IMO, Tywin is caught between a rock and a hard place. No matter how valuable KL is, he cannot wait at Harrenhall forever for Stannis to make his move. Stannis could linger in the Stormlands for months, either investing SE or gathering fresh forces, and in the meanwhile Robb could pillage Westerlands at will. I would say that Tywin simply had to pick not the most important objective, but the one which was under attack at the respective moment.
        I think Tywin’s reasoning was most likely along these lines: if Stannis marches immediately against KL, he has the time to return; if Stannis starts to besiege Storm’s End, he cannot lift the siege without a massive loss of face and the stronghold can defend itself a long time. What Tywin did not anticipate (judging from Tyrion’s reaction) is that SE will fall quickly.

        4. “Tyrion got wildly exaggerated tales of wargs, not precise troop numbers. And Riverrun is just down the road.”

        Actually, no. It’s Lancel who gives an embellished account. Here is Tyrion’s description:
        “The northmen crept into my uncle’s camp and cut his horse lines, and Lord Stark sent his wolf among them. Even war-trained destriers went mad. Knights were trampled to death in their pavilions, and the rabble woke in terror and fled, casting aside their weapons to run the faster. Ser Stafford was slain as he chased after a horse. Lord Rickard Karstark drove a lance through his chest. Ser Rubert Brax is also dead, along with Ser Lymond Vikary, Lord Crakehall, and Lord Jast. Half a hundred more have been taken captive, including Jast’s sons and my nephew Martyn Lannister. Those who survived are spreading wild tales and swearing that the old gods of the north march with your brother.”

        While the numbers are not mentioned, Tyrion got a pretty accurate description of the battle, down to details.
        Now, it might be that the one who sent this report was not able to accurately assess the size of Robb’s force, due to Oxcross being a surprise attack in the night.
        The reason I mentioned it is different: it shows that the Westerlands still have reliable communications with KL (probably by raven).
        Since Robb operated in Westerlands for quite a while, it’s hard to believe no one there actually got the chance to evaluate Robb’s troop numbers. And if they did, they relied that information to KL.

        5. “Tyrion makes some good points, but Harrenhal is still 300 miles from King’s Landing. That’s not a trivial distance”.

        I don’t disagree, but I think we both know Martin screwed up the distances big time.
        Basically, Martin made Westeros bigger than China, but it did not adapt (not well anyway) the military operations (and many other things) to the distances involved. He plays the War of the Roses in something akin to central and eastern Asia.

        I agree it’s not a trivial distance, but what can we do? As you know, I heavily criticized Martin over this matter, so I’m open to suggestions.
        Tywin’s forced march at the end of ACOK is the distance from Berlin to Paris, which was supposedly covered in what, 3 weeks?

        “And Tywin still had 10,000 men and a castle guarding the Westerlands when he made for Harrenhal, and even then his lords were screaming for them to get back to the Westerlands. ” – This information is incorrect. There is *no one* who screams to get back to Westerlands.
        The participants at that council were Tywin, Kevan, Tyrion, Marbrand, Brax, Lefford, Swift and Clegane. Here is the opinion of his lords:

        Swift – pissed his pants, moaned that their situation was hopeless and that they should sue for peace; since Swift is a coward and a moron, his opinion does not amount for much, though;
        Marbrand – says that they should march against Robb at once, otherwise they will be considered weak;
        Lefford – tries to suggest a way to free Jaime;
        Clegane – argues that Jaime should have blinded his incompetent scouts;
        Brax – asked about the fate of his father.

        There is none who even mentions Westerlands, except Swift in his ramblings.

        6. Ok.

        7. It seems we have a misunderstanding. When you first made that point, you said “an army can’t *stop* on a dime” – the way it was phrased, it seemed to refer to Tywin’s only reversing his decision, not the actual march back to KL per se.
        If you want to imply that 600-700 miles is an awful long distance, fair enough. One could argue that Stannis would have been better off waiting until he was certain Tywin was completely bogged down in the Westerlands, but that is debatable, because I don’t see how could Stannis receive reliable information about Tywin’s whereabouts unless he coordinated with Robb and Edmure (something which I think he should have done, but that’s another story).

    • David Hunt says:

      The above was supposed to be a reply to Celestial’s comments below made at 3:03 am on February 3. Appologies.

  20. Baelish the Bard says:

    Great Essay.

    One comment, I think Roose didn’t fight the battle to win, he fought it not to lose. I don’t know that he was sabotaging the effort, his main job was to engage Tywin and pin Tywin so that there was no hope of Tywin aiding Jamie. Roose’s wasn’t supposed to win, he was supposed to preserve his forces. which he did successfully. Remember Robb originally wanted to appoint the Great Jon and Catelyn was afraid the Great Jon wouldn’t preserve their forces. HOW ON EARTH could Catelyn have approved of giving Bolton an independent command.

    Also, I don’t think its clear how good a commander Tywin was, I think he’s probably highly competent, a journeyman, though maybe not inspired. When Jamie takes the field in a Feast For Crows we can see that he’s superior to the likes of Davon Lannister or the Freys. I think Tywin in turn was demonstrated to be better than Jamie. The Blackfish and Hoster were probably superior tacticians with lessers forces, but I imagine Tywin has to be at least above average. Though, Stannis doesn’t seem all that impressive and Tywin seems to be afraid of him.

    • If his job is to preserve his force…why does he come down off the hill?

      I think you have to look at Stannis’ total track record – and I highly recommend Brynden BFish’s series. Stannis has accomplished some stunning feats of both land and sea combat again and again. He’s not a lovable commander, but soldiers will follow a winner even if they don’t like him.

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        Well the argument for why Roose comes off the hill would be that he has to engage Tywin. He wants to makes sure there is a battle, if he sits on the hills in a defensive and superior position Tywin may decline to commit his army at all.

        I didn’t know Stannis had any victories on land besides the Battle of the Wall. Unless you count Stormsend, for which there’s evidence the Tyrells weren’t actually trying to win. He almost fell right into Roose Bolton’s trap, if not for a 15 year old lord commander.

        Defeating the Iron Fleet is kind of, sort of impressive, but I always felt it the inevitable consequence of an island fighting a continent.

        Everyone sort of suffers in comparison to the Blackfish.

        • Tywin’s come charging up the Kingsroad from an extremely defensible position at the crossroads, he outnumbers his opponent, and he’s got tons more cavalry, he’s going to fight.

          Stannis – I count Storm’s End. Even if the Tyrells weren’t trying to take it by storm, so what? Most sieges didn’t end with an assault because they were hugely costly; they ended with starvation or treachery. Stannis kept his men loyal for a solid year on starvation rations, that’s an enormous act of will.

          Defeating the Iron Fleet is not an inevitability. The Battle of Fair Isle is built on the classic battle of Salamis, a perfect encirclement on the water. The fact that a land commander pulled it off is astonishing.

          He defeats the wildling host with 1,500 men despite the fact that technologically superior armies can easily be overrun by larger ones (Isandlwana). He then executes a thousand-mile forced march through unfamiliar and inhospitable terrain, taking Deepwood Motte and increasing his numbers along the way. And many have predicted that he’s about to win the Battle of the Ice and probably the 2nd Siege of Winterfell as well.

          The Blackfish is flashier, but flashy doesn’t always win in the end.

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        P.S. Don’t get me wrong, I think Roose is paying fast and loose with the order of battle. We don’t see any Ryswells or Boltons or Dustins being sacrificed. But I’m just not sure he’s trying to fail.

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        I don’t think there’s a guarantee Tywin will charge up hill. He can simply wait the Northmen out up there based on everything he knows, and Tywin could pounce on them if they attempt to withdraw. And while Tywin waits there’s risk that he’ll get word that Robb spits his forces and Tywin could in turn use his foot to hold Roose in place and loose his cavalry to intercept Robb / reinforce Jamie. Roose’s job is to keep Tywin and Jamie from linking up. So I don’t think he can just assume Tywin will attack. I think you’re question about the night march is the better one, why not go straight in from the march, but Roose might not be able to withdraw in good order.

        Again, I don’t disagree with anything you said. But I think we should remember Roose’s job isn’t to defeat Tywin, its to block from going North or linking up with Jamie.

        Well Stannis hasn’t won the Battle of the Lakes, yet, I presume he will as well. And I think he’s a good commander, though he is facing a pretty divided enemy that would rather fight one another than fight Stannis.

        No its not that the Tyrells aren’t trying to Storm, Stormsend, its that they’re mostly feasting. It seems to me that this is another case of Olena trying to keep the Tyrells disengaged, the siege is a way to have the Tyrell forces occupied without them actually fighting.

        Taking Deepwood, is really unimpressive, Asha only has maybe 100 men. Winning the mountain clans is Jon’s idea, though Stannis gets points for execution. Defeating the Wildlings is similar, granted he could have been screwed up, but as Jon notes the Wildlings won’t stand against an organized foe in pitched battle.

        A shout, a slash, and a fine brave death, Jon had heard brothers say of the free folk’s way of fighting.
        “Mance cannot win this war.”
        “He can!” she insisted. “You know nothing, Jon Snow. You have never seen the free folk fight!”
        Wildlings fought like heroes or demons, depending on who you talked to, but it came down to the same thing in the end. They fight with reckless courage, every man out for glory. “I don’t doubt that you’re all very brave, but when it comes to battle, discipline beats valor every time. In the end Mance will fail as all the Kings-beyond-the-Wall have failed before him. And when he does, you’ll die. All of you.”

        The blackfish is fighting superior enemies, while Stannis is fighting inferior ones. Even with the battle against the Iron Born, it seems to me its Japan vs. the US in World War II, sure the battle of Midway is impressive, but the Japanese are doomed regardless. The Iron Born are doomed as well, though Stannis does get credit for beating them on his first try. But on land, I don’t really think Stannis has done anything impressive yet, though when taken together as a campaign, Wall-Deepwood-Lakes will be impressive, like Astapor-Yonkai-Meereen. No of those is particularly impressive but when you look from the starting to the ending point its impressive.

        • No, Tywin can’t wait them out. He’s explicitly said he needs to deal with this threat immediately so he can spin around and confront the Baratheons.

          Whereas Bolton absolutely can wait him out – in fact, it completely helps the Stark cause by giving more time for Robb to get to Riverrun and less time for Tywin to march south and help him.

          As for Stannis: who cares if they’re feasting? Sieges generally don’t get settled with assaults; they were blockading the castle from sea and land and that’s all that matters. Taking Deepwood is impressive when you consider the distances involved – 700 miles over mountains and deep forest. Twice as long as Sherman’s March to the Sea. Jon’s point can’t be taken axiomatically – Islandwana, Boudica’s victories, etc.

      • Celestial says:

        Stannis does have a good record, but everything else is overshadowed by the Blackwater. Stannis commits there one of the most basic errors of strategy, breaking the axiom of military strategy of all times: the main target should be the enemy army, not a city, even if it’s the capital. To attack the enemy capital without having defeated his forces in the field first or, worse, without even knowing their whereabouts is a recipe for disaster.
        I can think of a ton of examples where the conquest of the capital had little strategic impact, as long as the army was still intact:
        – in 1937, Japan took Nanking; it did not end the war with China;
        – German forces took Bucharest in 1916; Romania still fought and inflicted several defeats on the German army next year;
        – Wien was occupied by Napoleon in 1805 and 1809; it had little effect on the war, which ended only when Napoleon defeated the enemy armies at Austerlitz and Wagram;
        – Russian and Habsburg forces occupied Berlin in 1760; it had no impact on the war;
        – The Swedes occupied Warsaw in 1655; again, to no avail;
        – Moscow was also occupied by poles in 1612; again, to no avail;
        – Bucharest was occupied by turks in 1595; effect: zero;
        – Paris was occupied by English in 1420; it helped them little.

        I can’t think of one example in history when taking the capital led to victory, unless the enemy had been defeated first (or had no army in the field for whatever reason). Examples: taking of Berlin in 1945, Paris in 1940 and 1870, Berlin in 1806 after Jena, Jerusalem in 1187 after Hattin. The only exception is Paris in 1814, when the taking of Paris made Napoleon’s political position untenable, but that was an outlier, because the French army, while not being defeated per se, had been bled white and the numerical superiority of the Coalition was huge.
        While taking KL might yield some political advantages for Stannis, it does not actually end the war and it carries the enormous risk of being attacked in the rear by the enemy field army which will undoubtedly come to the rescue. Stannis basically set himself up for a Stalingrad-like defeat from the very beginning and it’s not something which could not have been anticipated (Tyrion foresaw this possibility in ACOK, albeit when speaking about Renly).

        • I think this is overly harsh. You have to consider a couple major factors here:

          1. The Lannister heirs to the Iron Throne are all in KL as far as Stannis knows. If they die, the Lannisters don’t have a claimant, and no one can dispute Stannis is the rightful heir regardless of whether they believe the incest story.

          2. As far as Stannis knows, KL does contain the only Lannister force in the east, as Tywin has marched west. Taking KL cuts of Tywin from all reinforcements and supplies as well as resources.

          3. Politically, the Iron Throne is *the* symbol of legitimacy. The Targaryen loyalists had more than 100,000 men in the field when KL fell and the rebel alliance only had ~40,000. But when Robert took the Iron Throne, everyone bent the knee rather than keep on fighting.

      • Baelish the Bard says:


        Stannis also put that idiot in charge of his fleet and let him sail the whole thing head long into the Blackwater Rush. Stannis is right there on the shore, he could have communicated with the fleet.

      • Winnie says:

        Celestial-you might be right about the tactics but there is the fact that if Stannis takes KL he can put Cersei, joffrey, and Tommen to the sword at once. (And a lot of other Lannisters and enemies like Varys too.)

        Without Cersei and her sons Tywin has no Lannister heir to be fighting *for*-except Myrcella but even if Stannis knew she was in Dorne the odds that Tywin could get Dorne to give him the girl wouldn’t be good-and they wouldn’t have a marital bargaining chip with the Tyrrell’s.

        So taking the Red Keep wouldn’t destroy the Lannister army but it would effectively eliminate their cause-as Stannis well knows.

      • Celestial says:

        Winnie: and did Stannis manage to do that?
        What you said is true, but the major problem is that, when attacking a city of strategic importance, you risk getting attacked in the rear by the party which that city belongs to and get flattened between the besieged city and the relief army.
        I don’t think we can discuss in terms of “what if Stannis took the city” because his defeat was utterly predictable. One does not have to be the second coming of Napoleon to realize that Tywin will rush with his 20,000 troops to save KL, for the reasons you outlined.
        Stannis could risk an assault only if he had reliable information that Tywin was too far away to intervene… and he did not have such information.
        Basically, Stannis had 2 targets, equally tempting: KL or Tywin’s army. The reason why the army is always the primary target in military strategy is because the city cannot move and come to rescue the army; but the army can come to rescue the city, ensuring defeat for the attacking party.

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        I think that’s a good point. Tywin is under a lot of pressure. But I still don’t think Roose can rely on that if he’s supposed to engage Tywin. We know Tywin is planning to engage regardless because he thinks Robb will run away and he doesn’t know he isn’t facing Robb. But Roose can’t rely on that.

        A for Stannis, the siege of Stormsend is not so much a feat of combat as it is a feat of stubbornness. Stannis being able to make the same trip Bran and Hodor did, is not very impressive to me. He’s uncontested, that’s like giving Robb Stark credit for getting from Winterfell to the Twins. Robb went more than 700 miles.

        • Defending a siege is one of the hardest challenges in medieval warfare.

          Stannis’ trip is quite impressive as a feat of military logistics; Robb wasn’t marching through a Northern winter.

      • Celestial says:


        1. “The Lannister heirs to the Iron Throne are all in KL as far as Stannis knows”. That is not true. While Stannis does not know the exact whereabouts of Tommen, it should not be hard to anticipate that Tyrion will evacuate him from the city. Keeping BOTH heirs to the throne in a city which is going to be besieged soon and might fall to the enemy would be an utterly idiotic move. Robb Stark, who isn’t exactly the most astute politician in the series, decides to keep his wife at Riverrun and his mother at Seagard.
        Sending Tommen away is not some unforeseeable genius move. Cersei herself, who otherwise is quite a moron, actually thought of this and Stannis should expect it. If he did not and actually thought that both Lannister heirs to the thrones are in KL, then you are throwing Stannis an even bigger idiot ball (which I don’t think he deserves).

        2. And, as I said, Tywin’s army does not move according to some predetermined path, thus your point is moot. What moves west can also return. Your whole premisis is based on “what if’s” implying that, if everything went a certain way, Stannis “could” have won. “Would” and “could” is not viable military strategy. For this reason, the primary concern of a general should be the target which is the biggest threat, not some fixed point on the map, regardless how vauable it is.
        This is not an *opinion*, it is what is taught/asserted in every book on military history/strategy I have ever read. You arguing otherwise does not make it false. If you can point me one military thinker who said that it is better to attack the capital and ignore the enemy army, I’ll eat that book.

        3. Argument 3 does nothing but highlight your unwillingness to consider any other facts than your own beliefs.
        Why would you refer to RR and not to the Dance of Dragons, when both sides held KL in turn and it did not lead to the capitulation of the enemy forces?
        With the Dance of Dragons precedent in mind, one can make an argument that the destruction of the Targaryen leadership was far more important than the taking of KL. With Aerys and Rhaegar dead, there was no one to rally the Targaryen loyalists anymore and the Tyrell commitment to the loyalist cause was feeble to begin with (surely, you are not going to tell me that Mace actually needed to sit 60,000 men on their asses just to besiege Storm’s End).

        • 1. King’s Landing is the safest place for them; Bran and Rickon were kept at Winterfell rather than split up. The larger point is that executing Joffrey, who absolutely has to stay there, and taking the Iron Throne itself, makes Stannis a much more legitimate claimant in the eyes of Westeros.

          2. What moves west takes *TIME* to get back east. My premise is that even with an unlikely meeting between Tywin’s retreating force and a messenger from King’s Landing, he barely got there in time. Given Stannis’ political and military situation, moving on King’s Landing makes sense – if Tywin comes, great, Stannis doesn’t have to chase him and can force battle at a time and place of his own choosing; if he doesn’t, Tywin’s screwed politically.

          3. I disagree. Holding King’s Landing was crucial to the Greens’ early success, and Rhaenyra taking King’s Landing put the Blacks in a dominant position. Had Rhaenrya not botched the job politically, the Fishfeed, Stony Ridge, and Second Tumbleton could have won her the war right there.

  21. My guess about Roose is this – he sees Robb’s invasion as a very bad idea that is doomed to fail. Therefore, how can he leverage it?

    Let’s say he helps this doomed venture to a faster conclusion, one in which his many regional allies suffer but he does not. And let’s say the idiot boy Robb Stark totally doesn’t turn out to be a gifted leader of men and intuitive strategist who sends the Lannisters reeling but totally dies in battle like idiot boy lords always do. Once Eddard is executed and Robb is dead Winterfell falls to Bran…perhaps with the advice of his close friend Roose Bolton, whom his dearly departed brother trusted, peace could be made, one that leaves Bran as Lord of Winterfell with Roose as the true power in the North. And hey, has Roose married Fat Walda yet? Maybe he’s thinking that Sansa would make a natural husband for him, and if poor Rickon were to die of some terrible sickness, well, with crippled Bran unable to have children, one day Roose and Sansa’s children would inherit Winterfell.

    • No, I don’t think that’s his idea at all. This “doomed to fail” idea is pure presentism.

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        Yes by all rights the Lannisters should have lost and Renly should have won. Now crowning Robb was probably a mistake. He should have supported Stannis even after Renly declared himself.

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        There’s just no reason Robb needed to crown himself. He could have been defacto sovereign without alienating Renly and Stannis. It just doesn’t make any sense, particularly since Robb does it without ever hearing from Stannis. Now don’t get me wrong if Balon had accepted Robb’s offer it wouldn’t have lead to such a disaster, but it would still have been a mistake to crown himself on a whim, with the situation in flux like that. I think Martin even comments on this with Theon crowning himself and then clinging to it as his doom closes in around him.

      • So are you saying passing Obama are by losing Vietnam wasn’t Lincoln’s plan all along?

        <—*knows when he's full of BS*

  22. Meereenese Liberation Front says:

    I think your analysis is quite compelling, but… wouldn’t the other Northern lords have seen through Roose’s strategy (and tried to get word to Robb, or just refused to play along, or whatever)? Or are they all supposed to be keen on fighting in the front row and dying by the thousands, as Ruddy the Ruin’s troops were in The Queen and the Princess?

    • WPA says:

      At Green Fork- I don’t think it would be so obvious. Roose could simply argue- “Of course I kept Dreadfort Men in reserve near me, I needed men I knew and trusted on hand to be fresh and ready to exploit the breakthrough once Glover drove Lannister… etc” He didn’t march South to be an army commander and once appointed one, he needed his own Dreadfort troops on hand to coordinate with the least amount of confusion.

      And, if by chance the Glovers, et al broke through- the Dreadfort men would be in position to exploit a breakthrough into a rout and earn even more plaudits for Lord Bolton.

    • Well…look what happened with Duskendale. Robett Glover obeys the order to sack Duskendale, despite being a good tactician who could see the strategic pointless of his mission.

      Bolton was careful enough not to do anything that would be considered openly disloyal until the “opportune moment.”

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        Well the thing is Roose gave the Northmen precisely what they said they wanted, an objective to attack to take the Battle to the enemy like Robb was doing.

        I don’t think we have any evidence Robett Glover is a good tactician though.

        Who on earth would think its a good idea to attack a city right down the road from the combined Lannister-Tyrell army. There’s gotta be 60,000 men at kingslanding, its transparently nuts.

        • Robett Glover argued for the Riverrun campaign, was charged with taking Harrenhal, and succeeded in breaking out against the highly skilled Randyll Tarly despite being set up for failure by his commanding officer.

          He didn’t think Duskendale was a good idea, but couldn’t defy a direct order.

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        I just don’t think there’s a lot there. I’m not saying Robett isn’t a good commander, I’m just saying there isn’t a lot to go on. He did rally the troops after Randyll Tarly defeated them.

        Do you have a list of the best commanders in the series?

        Mine would go something like:

        Randyl Tarly
        Robert Baratheon
        Kevan Lannister
        Robb Stark
        Mace Tyrell

        • ….Ok, first off toss out Joffrey and Mace. They’re known incompetents and Joffrey’s unstable to boot.

          Kevan…we don’t have data at all on independent command. He’s a perfectly capable “division commander” but we don’t know how he would do as a “corps commander.”

          There’s not enough space to get into the reasons, but I would say…
          Tier I: Robb, Stannis, Blackfish, Randyll, Eddard, Dany
          Tier II: Robert Baratheon, Tywin, Tyrion, Euron
          Tier III: Jaime, Victarion

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        Well the joke was it was a complete list and Mace Tyrell was below Joffrey.

        I think the Blackfish is responsible for almost all of Robb’s victories. The Blackfish didn’t come up with the plan to split the armies but neither did Robb.

        I think Euron deserves a place at the top for burning the Lannister fleet, alone. There’s no way Euron is below Ned.

        I don’t think Ned has ever done anything as impressive as Robert at Summerhal. So I think Robert has to be ahead of Ned, as Ned never led an army into battle on his own. At the trident he had Robert at Stonysept he had Hoster Tully.

        Dany is good, I just don’t think she’s faced a serious opponent yet.

        Victarion gets some credit for getting the Iron Fleet all the way to Meereen in fighting order.

        • As you’ll see tomorrow, I think you give not enough credit to Robb for Robb’s victories.

          Euron proposed the idea, but Victarion carried it out. So credit has to be shared.

          Robert himself called Ned the better soldier.

  23. WPA says:

    Absolutely. He seemed to be mainly hedging his bets until after taking Harrenhal when he made his “no going back” decision.

    Related- what do you think of the show’s Roose Bolton? I think it makes more sense to have him as a steely cold realist and normal looking on camera rather than the book description, which would look too villainous from the outset and almost outlandish-vampire like. I also like them ditching the pink for a more grim-black look.

    • Winnie says:

      Yeah, if they had Roose looking on the show like he did in the books, nobody would buy for a minute that Robb could trust him-or that Robb *would* trust him. This way he still seems sinister but not blatantly so. Plus, I think the actor does a great job-especially his interactions with Jaime at Harrenhaal.

    • I really like the casting – emphasizes the “banality of evil thing,” with the cold blue eyes giving a subtle menace.

      • WPA says:

        Completely. It looks like Michael McElhatton is compiling a reel for a Vladimir Putin biopic in the future. Interesting that in Ireland he’s known more for comedy apparently.

        Regardless, they did an extremely good job casting him despite the shift from his book character- gives an understated but controlled competent menace. Perfect example: during the now celebrated Roose “Trollton” – toying with Jamie- “Your sister…how can I say this…your sister…is alive and well.” – in that scene, am I the only one that got a vibe from Bolton’s expression viewing Jamie’s reaction that, as I thought- “He’s just confirmed every rumor about Jamie & Cersei , to himself, with one moment of mindplay, and he knows it.”

      • Winnie says:

        It wasn’t just you. It also showed the Bolton sadism, in that brilliant piece of psychological torture, far more quickly and elegantly, than having to watch a whole season of Ramsay flaying, mutilating, and eventually castrating Theon did.

      • Baelish the Bard says:

        He looks SUPER evil on the show, he looks just like PUTIN.

  24. […] really see why he wanted to use (and keep using) Catelyn Stark as a POV, so that (in contrast to Tyrion VIII, which emphasized the chaos and confusion of being in the thick of battle) he could overlook the […]

  25. […] The chapter opens in media res, but does quite a bit of back-tracking (both in terms of Tyrion’s memory, other people describing past events, etc.) The Lannisters have succeeded in force-marching down the Kingsroad and reaching their old position at the crossroads, without being harried by Roose Bolton, “the remnants of his host” being “north of us” in the area of the “Twins and Moat Cailin,” one more consequence of his decision to throw the battle of the Green Fork. […]

  26. Scott Trotter says:

    Steven, I agree with most of your conclusions about this chapter, but in at least one instance I think you’re over-reaching a bit. In your Exhibit C above, you interpret the lack of description of what the North’s center and right are doing or not doing, to mean that they aren’t fully engaged or that they are somehow absent from the battle.

    My explanation for the lack of description is that we’re witnessing Tyrion’s point of view, he’s on “the left of the left,” and once the battle commences, his attention is limited to “the few feet of ground around his horse.” Tyrion doesn’t see what’s happening on the other side of the battlefield, so we don’t know either. Period.

    I should explain that my own purpose in this re-read is to establish in my own mind what are facts as opposed to what is speculation, so that I can evaluate the various theories people have about what’s going to happen in the final volumes. I really appreciate your generally excellent analysis of the political and military situations, but every once in a while I think you reach conclusions that aren’t supported by the evidence. If I call you on something and it turns out that I’m wrong, I’m happy to be corrected, especially if you can provide the appropriate references.

    Keep up the good work, and hopefully I’ll be caught up with you in a couple more weeks.

    • It’s true that Tyrion has a limited perspective, but they’re not mentioned at all either here or later when the Lannister forces are marching away. When taking in context with everything else – which banners are seen, why an army of foot would abandon the high ground, why we don’t see any Northern archers until they’re firing on their own men – I think the balance of evidence points to them not being engaged.

  27. Scott Trotter says:

    Glancing back over the comments, I don’t see any mention of exactly where the Battle of The Green Fork takes place. This is one of those times where Errant Bard’s timeline is a little out of sync with reality. For example, Robb comes down the causeway through The Neck *way* faster than he should. To get around this, I’m going to work backwards from a date where the timeline looks like it’s more reasonable.

    According to the timeline, Tyrion and the Mountaineers arrive at the Crossroads Inn on Dec. 24, and these events are described in Tyrion VII. The Lannisters receive a message from their scouts that the Stark host is “moving down the causeway,” and Lord Tywin orders his host to begin advancing north to meet them.

    The Battle of The Green Fork takes place on the morning of Jan. 3, which means that the events of this chapter, Tyrion VIII, take place starting in the late afternoon of Jan. 2. Assuming that they begain their march north at first light on Dec. 25, that’s 9 full days travel for the Lannisters, and at 15-20 miles per day, that averages out to about 160 miles. The usual estimate of the distance from The Crossroads to The Twins is 300 miles, so the battle takes place a little more than halfway up the Green Fork Valley, at roughly the same latitude as Oldstones.

    Looking ahead to Tyrion IX, the timeline says that the depleted Lannister host arrives back at the Crossroads Inn on the afternoon or evening of Jan. 8. They traverse the same 160 mile distance, but this time in only 5 or 6 days. This averages out to 25-30 miles per day, which would indeed be a grueling pace for infantry to maintain.

  28. […] Tyrion VIII (The Battle of the Green Fork and why Roose Bolton threw it) […]

  29. twibble67 says:

    I must admit, I have some trouble totally visualizing how these battles would totally look, even though I am interested in the periods of history where these types of battles took place and I look into it in various ways. Many seem to characterize the role of cavalry as being to scare off those they’re pitted against while infantry is at times described as relying almost entirely on pike formations and shield walls, which is sometimes depicted as largely involving just standing there while trying to hold the spear and/or shield as well as possible.

    But then, in most historical fiction I read, art I see, and even in some descriptions of battles as well, there’s also a depiction of real down and dirty melee fighting with both infantrymen and cavalry using a variety of weapons and actually fighting in hand-to-hand combat with one another. The latter seems far more exciting than people riding their horses forward hoping their enemies get frightened and standing still with spear and/or shield up, plus I don’t really see how infantry could really fight each other or maneuver their weapons in any way if they were so rigidly jammed in tightly and had no space at all, but I don’t want to believe in something out of ignorance even if it’s more attractive in some ways. Is there any way a relative historical warfare newbie like myself can get a better picture in my head of how the fighting looked, both from a macro and micro perspective? Excuse my ignorance, but I am eager to learn.

    • So – cavalry’s real task is to: a., break the opposing cavalry, b. flank if at all possible, c. when possible, use cavalry charge to disrupt enemy formation to allow infantry to exploit gaps, d. cause panic if possible. When cavalry run up against a shield wall that stands up to a frontal charge, they can’t really break the formation. They can still chop their way in, but it’s a lot more painful and more difficult than hitting someone from the flank. Think about it a bit like the way that cavalry worked in the Napoleonic era – if you can charge a line, you can break them; if they form square, you’re chopping away at the outside or trying to literally crash your horses through their line like a bowling ball.

      If you want to see how pike works, there’s not a lot of maneuvering – if you’re up against swordsmen or cavalry, you just pokey-pokey them until they go away, because you have a massive reach on them and they can’t push their way into you – unless they’ve brought some mad bastard landsknechts with giant two handed swords who run into the giant pincushion and start chopping giant holes in the forest of pikes, at which point guys with regular swords pour into the gaps and start murdering people packed in too tightly to fight back. If you’re up against muskets, you charge and drive them off before they leisurely shoot at the giant target until you’re all dead.

      The tricky thing is when you get pike against pike – in that case, both sides charge, their pikes (especially in the first few ranks) tend to get tangled and then pushed up into a hedgehog like so.

      At this point, it’s all down to shoving. Both sides try to use the force of numbers to bowl the other side over, with the guys in the back ranks literally pushing into the backs of the ranks in front until the guys opposing them fall over and you trample over them, all the while people in the further back rows are jabbing blindly and the guys in the front rows drop their hopelessly tangled pikes, draw their swords or knives, and start stabbing one another – a bit like a rugby scrum or the offensive and defensive lines in American football, mixed with a knife fight and everyone’s too packed in to get out of the way, which is pretty terrifying.

      • twibble67 says:

        I appreciate the detailed explanation. So did those on foot rarely fight each other with weapons other than pikes, or was there a division of different kinds of weapons used among the infantry? Again, I ask because depictions in which more than just the push of pike takes place between infantry seem so ubiquitous in what I’ve seen, and not even in the expected-to-be-inaccurate Hollywood depictions. Was it really common for the pushing match to devolve into men stabbing and slashing each other, or did more than just the push of pike take place, or is it mostly a fantasy/fabrication? I get why a shield wall and pike formations would work against cavalry or, in the case of the former, archers, but I would think there are other instances in which being jammed together so tightly wouldn’t work well. Apologies for the lack of brevity, it’s merely a reflection of my interest.

        • No problem. Absolutely there was a time at which “those on foot rarely fight each other with weapons other than pikes.” The thing to understand is that there is no such thing as an ultimate weapon in war – every technology, every tactic, has drawback which can be exploited. The pike phalanxes which had enabled Alexander to conquer all of Persia were basically unstoppable head on, but they were slow and unwieldy, and incredibly vulnerable to being flanked. Thus, when Rome eventually went to war with the Macedonians, because as a looser formation using short stabbing swords instead of two-handed pikes, they could easily flank the phalanx and then start stabbing – and the phalanx was so tightly packed that the men in the middle were completely pinned into place.

          Thus, the legion replaces the phalanx. But then it turns out that the Roman legion – which actually moved a lot like riot police, as you can see in HBO’s Rome, which has some rather good legionary tactics when it bothers to show the battles – could not stand up to the mix of horse archers and heavy armored cavalry used by the Persians, the Huns, etc. So people adapt, and the legions shift to something pretty close to proto-knights, except without the stirrup, and once they get the stirrup it’s of to the races. So for a while the knights are completely dominant, but then Crecy and Poiters and Agincourt shows that archers and dismounted-men-at-arms can completely destroy knights.

          Then someone comes up with the use of pikes to push aside the less cohesive men-at-arms, and once muskets become a thing, they work really really well in combination with pike. So you get the tercios, which are completely dominant until the Dutch and the Swedes realize that these giant formations of pikes and musketeers are really good targets for cannons that are mobile enough to be used on the battlefield, which dooms the tercio. Then people realize that cavalry are really good at capturing cannons, which means you now need cavalry to take the other guy’s cannons and guard your own, so things change again.

          Then someone invents the socket bayonet, and now musketeers can fire and defend themselves against cavalry using the bayonet as a makeshift pike. Pikes become obsolete, because moving pike formations, unlike musketeers, can’t fire back. At this point, you basically have the ingredients for the Napoleonic model of musketeer infantry, artillery, cavalry all mutually supporting one another. This lasts for a long, long time, until rifled muskets, then rifles, then machine guns, then barbed wire, and some of the biggest cannons ever made and poisoned gas and airplanes makes WWI such hell. Then it’s all massed artillery barrages and trench warfare, until people figure out storm trooper tactics and massed tank combat to punch through the enemy lines. Add that onto better aircraft and you basically have WWII.

          And so on, and so on.

  30. […] Manderlys intervene), Ramsay threatens to make his House the regional hegemon, just as his father acts to weaken his neighbors. And while Ramsay’s actions are disorganized to the point of bringing down retribution from […]

  31. “As I’ve already suggested, the geography of the battle resembles nothing so much as a bizarro Battle of Hastings where the Saxons don’t even bother to hold the high ground and just charge straight down into the Normans to be hacked into pieces.”

    I read a year or two ago in about a battle in Burma where the Allied troops charged a fortified Japanese position uphill from them, and the Japanese leaped out and charged down to meet them. The Allied officer reported thinking something like “this isn’t how it’s supposed to happen.” The Japanese lost.

    Unfortunately, I spent 20 minutes looking around the ww2today but couldn’t find the story.

    (And it’s modern, not medieval, but it was bayonet fighting so maybe not that different….)

  32. J. Matt Wigand says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this battle and find the analysis very useful. I find it strange that none of the other Lords under Bolton’s command (like Lord Hornwood or Lord Cerwyn) questioned his order to form up and ready for battle.
    You brought up Tywin’s army having 7,500 heavy cavalry. I’ve been researching cavalry quite a bit the last couple months. Generally the term heavy cavalry refers to a horse and rider who both have plate armor with chain mail beneath. Horses & men can’t wear that heavy armor all the time. They take it off in camp. Indeed, logistically, they have to drag the armor around in supply wagons because that much armor on men and horses during the marches would kill them. The weight would be exhausting.
    As such, they would need probably 20 minutes to get their armor on their horses, on them, and get up in the saddle and so on. Squires help a great deal in this but it still is a lot to do and I doubt it can be done in less than 15 minutes.
    They didn’t detect the Stark forces until they were right on top of them. The Stark forces are almost all infantry, their greatest tactical advantage would be catching the enemy in camp. Unready heavy cavalry are useless.

    Then there’s the issue of them marching. When armies are marching they usually move in a big column like a snake. Who is in front? Who was there who would have sighted the Lannister camp?
    If Bolton’s forces are in front of that long snaking column, then they fell back rather than hit the camp. Which would strike the rest of the army as odd and cowardly. Especially given how they stayed out of the battle (as you pointed out).
    If it were one of the other Lord’s forces, they might have struck without waiting for orders given the tactical advantage. They spotted the camp and seize the opportunity.

    Even if the orders given by Roose Bolton don’t strike the other noblemen as incompetent (and wouldn’t they? They may not have the same battlefield experience but nobles are taught military tactics and strategy. They can’t all be lunkheads, right?), the fact that the Bolton forces stayed out of the battle completely would lead to horrible army morale. The other units who suffered casualties while the Boltons remained unscathed would hate the Bolton troops. Infighting would happen in the camps as the defeated army reformed. Words, then fights, and then maybe outright bloodshed. Babying part of your army makes the rest of the men resentful. Besides being extremely suspicious behavior.

    I guess what I’m really wondering is: Isn’t Bolton’s scheme to gradually get rid of troops completely bonkers? Wouldn’t his betrayal be obvious to the men under his command?

  33. Joseph says:

    The book/show differences that struck me were from the Tysha story.

    1) Shae argues that Tysha was a whore. (I’m less than convinced – falling in love with the most eligible man you will ever meet seems within reason to me, especially when wine is involved.)

    2) Tyrion leaves out the part about his own involvement and the gold piece, which is a good solid brick in his foundation of self-hatred.

    I haven’t seen the later seasons yet, so don’t spoil me, but a lot of the raw hatred for Jaime comes from this betrayal, and from what Tyrion did to Tysha. Maybe they’re saving the gold piece for later.

  34. […] Woods and the Battle of the Camps, he managed to survive the Battle of the Green Fork despite Roose Bolton’s best efforts, and he’ll manage to survive a suicide mission at the Battle of Duskendale, and avoid the Red […]

  35. […] and yet intimate connection in an ambush that doesn’t exist in the trials by combat or pitched battles that we’ve seen so far.Jon gets a chance to observe the man he’s about to kill as a […]

  36. […] that makes him step outside of his normal political sphere and return to the battlefield for the first time in nine months, is that he’s got a shallow bench. After years of Cersei’s cronyism, the ranks of the […]

  37. […] desperate combat on the High Road, and distinct from his attempt to survive in the confusion of the Green Fork, Tyrion feels completely in control, a giant “drunk with slaughter.” Both internally […]

  38. […] in the process of working out a deal, because this is going several steps beyond what he did at the Green Fork and Roose Bolton is far too cautious a man to commit high treason without getting a firm […]

  39. […] is within the bounds of reason if we compare it to similar ambushes like the Whispering Wood, the Battle of the Camps, or Oxcross, and if you pay attention, you’ll note that Ramsay’s six hundred men are […]

  40. […] him at your leisure while keeping your cavalry rested? Likewise, shooting into his own men may be a Bolton family tactic, but it’s profoundly stupid even when you have the larger numbers. If the Bolton cavalry was […]

  41. […] as well uphill as they do on even ground, which is why if you have to fight cavalry as infantry you never abandon the high ground. Only when he sent in the infantry did his strength in numbers begin to tell, allowing Argilac to […]

  42. […] in ASOIAF: an army in full retreat after a major defeat. (Technically, one could argue that Tyrion VIII of AGOT might qualify, but that was an army force-marching, after a victory, trying to link up with an […]

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