Peter Turcan

Artificial Intelligence

This page describes the Artificial Intelligence (AI) of the computer controlled admirals, commanders and captains in the Trireme Commander simulation.
The one and only flexible formation for ships to use when travelling is line-astern. There is a signal flag for this, though in many cases this is simply not necessary, as the ships will follow their commanders in line-astern by default. Line-astern is the only sensible way out of port, around islands, through narrows, in rougher seas, and in most situations except in battle.
An AI commander (in charge of a squadron of two to ten triremes) will not try to form into a battle formation in constricted water, but will instead head for the most open water visible, if enemy are encountered and a battle formation is necessary.

Signalling a battle formation

The critical signal to a squadron is the one to form a battle formation (one of the three Periplous, Diekplous, or Kyklos). In all cases the commander needs to take a lot of care when the signal is displayed. Not only do the subordinate captains adopt the formation displayed, but, as this is critical, they take the direction the squadron flagship is facing at the time the signal is displayed to be the direction the formation should face.
This direction is especially critical in the diekplous formations. Having set the direction the triremes should face, the squadron can then ignore any heading changes of the flagship without having to make difficult adjustments to their position. Otherwise, for example, if the squadron flagship turned 25 degrees right, then ships at either end of the diekplous formation would have to move forwards or backwards considerable distances.
So, when signalling a battle formation, leave your signals as line-astern until you are certain you are in right position, and have the right heading, before you signal a battle formation. Clearly this is most likely to be straight at your chosen enemy. If however you become uncertain the direction or form-up location is right, then signal line-astern again, as this will clear the previous order completely, and move or pivot to your preferred location and heading, and signal the battle formation again,

Forming up

AI controlled commanders will go into a form-up phaze after enemy are sighted, choosing their location to be both facing that enemy, and in the most open water available.

The approach

After the formation is in place, which can take some time, the next phaze is the approach. The flagship will move slowly forward towards the enemy, allowing all ships in the formation to maintain position.

of a squadron

As a human player, when you are ready to begin your approach remember that as commander it is not advisable that you are first to strike. This is one reason why the diekplous formations are so much more battle friendly that the periplous options. As the center of communications you need to preserve your ship's integrity.
Because of this, in deikplous, the tiremes to either side of you will actually pull slightly ahead of you, making it more likely they will engage first. Remember too that they are taking their line from your initial direction when giving the formation signal, not your heading as you advance.
This can make it necessary to give way to your own sub-ordinates to the extent that they expect to engage before you do. Having set the attack in motion your role is to guide the formation to its target (as far as speed goes), but the direction of attack is already set.

The moment of impact

When the two fleets collide there will be a period of complete mayhem. Some ships will try to ram, some will try harder to evade. And a hail or arrows, and spears if the ships are close enough, will be exchanged. As squadron commander your role is to survive this stage intact.
Following this the battle proper commences. As Triremes, as for the most part all other ships before and since, are most vulnerable in the rear, captains will prefer to try to ram nearer the stern of a vessel. This leads to the phenomenon of "dog-fighting" - well know to fighter pilots - chasing each others tails - but it applies just as forcefully to triremes, and you will notice that triremes will chase the stern of their targets, who in turn will steer wildly to evade.
A trireme on your tail can be difficult to shake off. If the situation is one-on-one, no other triremes around, it can take considerable time and some cunning to break free of the chase. In a more complex battle, steering towards some of your own vessels who can confuse the chaser/chased picture helps a lot. As squadron commander, use the confusion to your full advantage. And let your sub-ordinate captains be the heros.
Forming up a Kyklos. This can take a bit of patience but is impressive to watch if done properly. Bring your flagship slowly to a halt, facing the enemy. Then signal the Kyklos, and without moving the flagship your squadrons fill form a nearly complete circle around your position.

Other signals


Withdraw is another strong command. It instructs all triremes under your command to attempt to return to port. It cannot be rescinded, once given trireme captains will largely act on their own and make their own way home. It is not neccessarily a signal to "retreat" and can be given when you think you have achieved enough and want to break off the engagement. Breaking free though can be difficult and the battle may rage on in places.


If you signal for assistance your immediate squadron will react by circling your position and trying to clear it of enemy vessels. It is a powerful order to give and can be used as a tactic in its own right. Better to give this order before it is too late though, as no assistance is given to a sinking or capsizing ship.


The Repairing signal is most useful for ships other than the flagship traveling in line-astern. Signalling that you are under repair indicates to the following ship to move up the line and stop following the repairing ship. The repairing ship will rejoin the line if and when it can.
If a flagship signals Repairing, it again means stop following, though as your subordinates have no other ship to take a lead from, it is similar to ordering a Heave to.
It is not necessary to signal you are repairing for repairs to be done to your trireme. It is necessary to be nearly stationary. The repairs that are undertaken are filling holes in the hull, basic repairs to the integrity of the hull, and evening up the number of rowers on the left and right hand sides. Holes are given the priority. No repairs can be made out at sea to the rudders - if both of these are lost then triremes need to steer home with the rowers providing different strokes to the left and right, awkward but not impossible.