My objection the overrating of this victory is not that the wildlings were pushovers.
It's that by far and away the decisive factor was timing. Which was, unless I've missed something, completely a matter of chance. The wildlings were hit in an exposed flank when they were committed to the front.
GRRM has a lot of these, by the way. The Hammer and Anvil, ok. An unexpected flank attack saves a seemingly doomed but determined defence, arriving at just the right moment, leading to a rout.
But then at the Blackwater, a determined but apparently doomed defence is saved at the last second by...an unexpected flank attack by a third party. Completely uncoordinated with the defending army, and arriving by sheer chance at an opportune moment, leading to a rout.
Seeing a pattern?
Now as far as I understand it, Stannis' plan was land in the East. Head west along the Wall.
That's it, right? There was no coordination with the NW, no waiting for a day or so to pounce at the right moment. It just happens, completely by chance, at the right moment. And the wildlings try and mount a resistance but pretty quickly rout. Except for the giants.
As always, Stannis' men fight hard and fight well. Sign of a solid commander with solid subordinates. And his unit commanders show initiative in Cromwelling the giants. But nothing that Stannis does or about the attack is remarkable except the timing. It's pretty standard fare.
If you appear unexpectedly and hit an army hard enough in the flank, especially one conducting a siege, it will rout. That's pretty basic. And again, the essence of Stannis achieving that tactical surprise was, so farvascwe know, complete chance. His superior armament and training would help, but honestly I would expect a 7K army to route almost as quickly under similar circumstances.
Or did I miss something? It's pretty much exactly what Tywin/Garlan did to Stannis, except that at least required the coordination of 2 armies. This was 1, heading West.
Nothing remarkable except GRRM's go-to perfect timing by chance. Nothing Stannis has ever done as a commander has impressed me, strategically or tactically. He has very solid command and control, he seems to drill very well and his troops have excellent discipline and fight hard. All good stuff. But also pretty standard. He's no slouch, he shows no weak points as a commander, he's versatile. But nothing stands out, either. Nothing is unconventional. There's nothing he does that an ordinary solid commander wouldn't do about as well.
Hopefully Winterfell is his Austerlitz or w/e. But until that, he's down in my books as solid, dependable and tough...but beatable and conventional.
Edited by James Arryn, 08 November 2013 - 09:19 PM.