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Battle Plans

PART 8 BATTLE PLANS

801. Doctrine gives you order of march, terrain selections for different regions (which may be customized by type of opponent), default deployment concepts and one or more overall default plans that you can evolve and customize through the setup process.

802. To score enough Attrition Points to win you need to engage and defeat at least half the enemy forces (preferably the weaker half, and including their Camp if convenient) and try to avoid overly exposing your troops to destruction by the rest of the enemy army. Unless you are playing to scenario victory conditions, securing terrain and positional advantages means nothing unless translated into killing enemy BGs. Quite often a battle is decided and victory conceded before an army breaks because the result is in little doubt. Sometimes army break point is reached at an unrealistically premature point when the tactical decision is still in the balance, but I think this problem is less frequent than in rules that allow cherry-picking of particular bases.

803. Try to figure out what kind of battlespace the opposing player and his army favor and how he would seek to exploit it. Do you know his temperament, aggressiveness, and favorite tactics or styles of play? Where one side has favorable match-ups or positioning all along the line the other side may play for drawish delay unless presented a more promising opportunity to engage which may draw him into combat. This is not a trap, but bait to draw the opponent to commit troops to action.

804. Assess favorable and unfavorable types of ground given the army match-up and determine in accordance with your terrain doctrine what features you will need, would like to use, or wish to avoid. What value or threat do different terrain features present? A terrain feature can be something worth seizing and holding for positional advantage, such as terrain in the midst of the battle or securing one or the other side’s flank against being turned. It is more often just an obstacle to go around or slow an advance through it on the way to action.

805. Slower speed and reduced dice tend to make terrain battles more lethargic – players are often optimistic about how long clearing terrain will take. Effective exploitation of terrain will often need the forceful commitment of 2-3 BGs early enough for the effort to mature in time to influence the overall battle, so you need to plan to synchronize the result of the terrain battle with other nearby engagements.

806. Timing and pacing are important. If the center engages prematurely, a victory on the flanks can take too long to intervene decisively in the center. Combat can be so out of synch in different sectors that opposing commanders or even reserves can salvage one area and then the next rather than being pressed by the dilemma of simultaneous crises. In planning the battle, estimate the progress of battle at intervals of several turns. A typical battle can be decided in a half dozen to a dozen turns – rarely much more than that. Unless someone is seeking to actively avoid contact, advancing and skirmishing before major close combat can take about 3 to 6 turns. The decisive combat can be over in a turn or two of concurrent slaughter, or can be spread over half a dozen turns as the focus of battle shifts. Once there is a breach in the line, it should be exploitable in the next two turns after the pursuers rally and turn to engage other enemy. Sometimes two sides can be locked in battle for half a dozen rounds of combat, the advantage even passing back and forth and disrupted troops recovering morale, but this is rare and usually involves evenly matched tough troops and Commanders on both sides.

GEOMETRY OF BATTLE


810. GEOMETRY OF BATTLE: The geometric portrayals of battles in battle maps suggest useful images for thinking about the tabletop as well. Battles tend to have fairly simple overall geometry affected by terrain and set by the main battle lines.

811. Width is important. A useful old military term that fell out of use since opposing armies stopped facing each other in parallel lines of battle is “outwinging” the enemy, meaning having a line of battle that extends farther on a wing than the enemy’s. I distinguish “outflanking” as meaning at or moving into a position actually on the enemy’s flank, while enveloping is sweeping behind the flank to take the enemy line in the rear. Outwinging can develop into a flank attack with time, suitable terrain, and limited enemy interference. It certainly tends to retard an enemy advance that would increase the potential threat to their flank.

812. Depth is important in terms of managing the distance between the opposing forces so they clash at the most opportune time, providing manoeuvring room behind your lines, allowing you to evade or manoeuvre away from the enemy or shift troops, and in terms of the depth of the battle front, providing rear support and reserves to plug ruptures in a committed line of battle. Skirmisher armies don’t need depth of battle front, but they need manoeuvring room and can find multiple lines useful as well.

813. You don’t need to cover the table side-to-side and at 800AP most armies can’t – many will only be able to fill at best 1/3 of the table width with fighting troops. Screening/pinning Skirmishers and flanking strike troops may deploy wide as part of a specific battle plan, but the general rule is not to spread your fighting troops hazardously wide – it just makes it easier for an enemy who is concentrated to focus on breaking several BGs before you can concentrate to match them. Unless you can tactically anchor a flank, a hanging flank is no more exposed with 24 MUs than 12 MUs of open ground beyond it, and overstretching your frontage leaves you with both a weak front and a weak flank.

814. Smaller armies tend to get outwinged and should not engage all along the front since they run out of frontage before the enemy runs out of troops. Try to be outwinged on only one flank and secure the other. Consider BGs in echelon back on the flanks, or terrain. These armies can still face a race to break through the middle before being swamped on the flanks.

815. At 800 points most armies don’t stretch fully across the table, so seeking to outflank the enemy is commonly considered. It is an important option for mounted armies who don’t wish a frontal showdown with the enemy and have troops fast enough to successfully win on a wing and envelop or start rolling up the enemy troops before the friendly center wavers.

816. The mobility of mounted and the manoeuvrability of drilled troops are advantages wasted in a head-on fight. “Dirty geometry” creates more chances to exploit speed and manoeuvrability than parallel lines of battle. Conversely, an unmanoeuvrable army should try to force a head-on fight with clean, largely parallel geometry and little manoeuvring room on the flanks or in the enemy rear area.

817. Always try to hit an enemy BG from two directions at the same time. Even if it sustains the initial attack it is at a negative POA against both opponents for fighting in two directions. Waiting an extra turn for the second BG to charge means one Impact and two Melee phases during which the attack could go wrong.

818. Dividing your army or breaking the cohesiveness of your battle front gives opportunities to a more nimble foe, but if you are sufficiently mobile you can have discontinuous lines of battle that can’t be exploited because they can’t physically be hit and gaps exploited – the targets move or evade away first.

819. Detaching forces against the opposing camp has value only if you can pillage it in time to affect the battle or divert stronger enemy forces that are close enough to attempt to save it. Low-grade LH are suitable for either purpose.

820. Look at each defile on the table – any defile, meaning any passage between areas of obstructive terrain, whether narrow or fairly wide, offers positional possibilities for slowing or blocking an advance, or bringing to bear converging shooting or close combat attacks.

STRATEGIES


830. Avoid drifting into a fight by starting with a strategy, which is likely to fall among the following categories:

831. Frontal attack: Two lines of battle basically go at it frontally, unless one is outwinged and then outflanked; in fair and open ground this is decided by might and the right (die rolls). Undrilled, unmanoeuvrable armies minimize their weaknesses and bring their fighting ability most easily to bear in a frontal fight. The fight doesn’t need to be quick to be successful, and indeed can swing back and forth, with successful opportunities to bolster BGs very important. Once a BG gives way, ripple effects through Cohesion Tests and overlaps can turn sharply against the loser. A frontal attack strategy can be frustrated by an opponent performing a screen-and-smash (see Tip 837) on one wing, often combined with attempts to flank attack or envelop that wing, while denying the rest of the army a target. Few singles size armies can cover the table from side to side in adequate strength – even infantry walls that can physically create a barrier across the table will have some mediocre troops or need to thin the line and can get holes punched in them by shooting and focused attacks. Without favorable terrain, the prudent approach to achieve a frontal fight is to wheel the geometry of the battle lines approaching 90 degrees to narrow the maximum frontage from 72 MUs down to 48 MUs. This takes time, needs a strong hinge, and requires planning to keep enemy lights from slipping past.

832. Penetration: An attack focused on the enemy’s center with the objective of smashing through by main force. Sometimes penetration can be the only viable strategy, such as where the enemy’s flanks rest securely on terrain held by the enemy that can’t be effectively contested. It requires a hard target that can’t or won’t avoid being hit, not a soft one that can evade away. To succeed the attack must be on a broad enough front to not be crippled by enemy overlaps, and adjoining portions of the enemy’s line must be kept from converged shooting against or flank attacks on the penetrating force. These adjoining areas are best pinned, flank guards used to protect the attack, and light troops used to keep the enemy wings from freely manoeuvring to respond. Against an active enemy it is a race. As in some historical battles, the decision may come down to whether a breakthrough can be achieved before the enemy wins on the flanks and can turn to deliver a flank charge on the penetrating force. Using second line troops to form a front to one or both flanks can buy time, but the hinge of the new front on that side remains extremely vulnerable.

833. Wing attack: A wing attack has some of the same aspects of concentration on a part of the front as a penetration, but is much safer since usually only the inner flank is in danger. Wing attacks include a frontal advance with an echelon forward towards the target wing, a flank sweep (aka a left hook or right hook) by a force that outweighs its opponents at the end of the line and can clear them and roll up the enemy line, and also an army wheel if the enemy does not respond by retiring.

834. Envelopments: Some envelopment can develop in the course of battle on a wing, but a full-scale envelopment even on one flank is hard to achieve against a wary opponent and the tempo of battle, which usually involves a central resolution before the enveloping troops can deliver an attack behind the enemy line. A flank march is the easiest way to try it. A double envelopment is only feasible for an army that can pin or screen the whole enemy front for an extended period while having a couple BGs on each flank either flank marching or working around the flanks. The center is the anvil on which the enemy line of battle is pinned to be hammered from flank or rear by the flank envelopment force. The art is keeping the enemy pinned in place long enough for envelopment. He may well draw forces from the center, or try a penetration instead.

835. Army Wheel: This is often tried by a walking wall of infantry seeking to turn the fight into a frontal battle on a narrower overall frontage. You need enough width and solidity to try this, and terrain in the way can obstruct or invalidate this plan, particularly if it can be held by enemy you can’t dislodge. Where opposed, the wheeling army can easily lose order, get stretched out, leave room at the pivot point or swinging end, and open gaps in the center of the line. Uncontrolled charges, pursuits, evades and losses all contribute to this.

836. Pin and Punch: This involves pinning the enemy along most or all of his front with weak forces while overwhelming one point in his line with a powerful strike force that counts on a quick breakthrough that will be exploited by turning or wheeling to rolling up other enemy BGs that are frontally committed. Pinning may not require initiating close combat – putting the enemy in your restricted area or simply in charge range may prevent the opposing BG from changing position.

837. Screen and Smash: Similar to Pin and Punch except that you are not engaged in enough strength to pin the enemy – they are merely screened and slowed down (typically by skirmishing Cavalry or lights) to buy time for a smashing attack on part of the enemy’s forces, such as by Knights, Cataphracts, Elephants or Cavalry Lancers or possibly heavy infantry. Alternatively, sometimes they need not be screened at all as even with Second Moves they will be too slow to interfere with your attack in time. Once you smash some BGs, the overall situation may be fluid. You can’t roll up the enemy line since those troops were not pinned in place – they have probably already either passed forward to your side of the table, turned to move directly toward your breakthrough force, or formed a new front. Both sides regroup and evolve new battle plans to gain the tactical initiative.

838. Defensive/Offensive: This is getting into a defensive position early on, receiving an attack, and then counterattacking when the enemy is failing or at least fully committed. If you can’t rely on your opponent’s temperament or scenario requirements to prompt an attack, how can you provoke one? Infliction of cohesion and base losses by shooting can prompt an assault, but you need to get shooters in range to do this. Flank marches or ambushers can lead the enemy to try to engage and defeat you before those troops come into play. If not, the army should time an advance to be able to coordinate with the flank marchers or ambushers.

839. Shoot and Scoot (aka Fire and Manoeuvre): This can take or develop into the shape of one of the other strategies above, particularly screen and smash, but is more opportunistic. The key concept is using the firepower and mobility of an army of lights (and sometimes missile cavalry) to tactically isolate, disrupt, fragment, and break successive BGs of the enemy with concentrated shooting while avoiding exposure to losses themselves. Favorable terrain is important; ample manoeuvring room is critical.

840. TROOP ROLES


840. Troop Roles: Your doctrine should clarify the roles of the troops you have and what you want the battle to look like against the kind of opponent you have. Some troops are suitable to fight in the battle front, while others may need protection from terrain or special positioning. Potential roles include fast assault, slow assault, blocking, pinning, delaying, harassment, or firepower.

841. Some troops are best on Impact, while others have Melee advantages that make them likely to break the opponent over time. Others can help prepare an assault, such as by shooting up the enemy or luring him into uncontrolled charges. It is worth drilling combined arms attacks that coordinate different troop types. Sacrificial attacks such as Scythed Chariots or sacrificial units used to force enemy pursuit out of position also have a place.

842. With armies built to use a finessed toolkit approach, getting appropriate matchups is important, but newer players should be wary of letting this be the dominant tactical consideration in deployment or manoeuvring lest their manoeuvres become overcomplicated and tactically unsound. Sometimes you just need to fight what’s in front of you.

843. Heavy Foot is quite slow unless enemy is kept off so it can do Second Moves – this can involve brigading mounted with it to chase off Skirmishers.

844. If your mounted are stronger, a good plan is to mass them in a wing attack to break a weaker opposing mounted wing and then flank their center which is meanwhile being pinned. If your mounted are weaker, try to anchor or refuse a flank and mass them as flank cover of the foot on the open wing or as a central reserve that can manoeuvre as needed.

845. If the enemy has a Skirmisher or mounted edge overall or on a flank, decide whether it helps the battle overall more to keep your lights as a force in being or be willing to risk them to trade for the enemy’s, or tie the enemy’s down or divert them away. Sometimes you can’t afford to lose the flank cover, sometimes pairing off BGs with the enemy to keep them in play or pursuit provides you with some needed security. Sometimes trading BGs makes sense, sometimes you can’t afford to lose them. If you have the advantage in lights, you want to disperse or destroy theirs so yours can help disrupt enemy heavies with shooting. Remember than LF can't charge anything in the open other than other Skirmishers, and LH are fairly weak in close combat against formed troops, so conceding a flank to a totally LF/LH force may cause your army far fewer problems than tying up or losing several of your own Skirmisher or other BGs in a losing fight.

846. The purpose of delaying troops is to buy you time and space. This is accomplished by preventing Second Moves, inflicting cohesion loss when possible, forcing the enemy to deploy, wheel, uncontrolled charge or otherwise divert himself from the direct route to his goal. Assuming enemy normal movement rates, you can calculate how many turns you have before they can present a danger to their objectives. Delayers are normally Skirmishers, although skirmishing cavalry can also be used. Foresee evasions carefully and try to avoid evasion paths that could leave the enemy with room to Second Move, but above all don’t lose BGs delaying unless it provides a critical advantage in time and space (such as leading enemy BGs away from their goal to a corner, or bogging them down in difficult terrain).

847. Don’t leave your best troops out of the action. They are too expensive to stand idle. A battle plan (plus appropriate army selection/design and terrain choice) that forces the enemy to fight your best 4-5 large units can pay dividends, and give you best value from committing your Commanders as well.

848. Risking or sacrificing a BG early in the game is a valid tactic to force strong enemy BGs to uncontrolled charge or pursue rashly into a position where they can be flanked (rendering their POA advantages irrelevant). A cheap BG is useful in this role, however using a fast moving, large and good quality unit (such as 6 Superior LH or Cv) maximizes your opportunity to draw out two enemy BGs, outdistance pursuers, and rally them back to useful shape later even if they lose a base in combat. If the objective is for them to rout immediately to be rallied later (thus avoiding casualties from multiple rounds of combat), they can expose a flank or rear and elect not to reroll low dice (re-rolls are voluntary except 6s for Poor troops) in order to maximize the chance of a quick and clean rout on Impact.

860. Using the concepts in Part 12, an attack should have focused, even if multiple, objectives in mind, and at each point in time in the battle there should be a BG that the commander identifies as the “schwerpunkt” (offensive hard point) you are relying on for success and which your other efforts support directly or indirectly (such as by cleverly diverting enemy attention and forces). This may not involve a concentration of force, but does involve a concentration of effort and concentration of pressure the enemy must buckle under or counter. Concentration of threats and pressure does not necessarily require physical proximity.

861. If you are more mobile (e.g., faster, or Drilled vs. Undrilled) and clever, you can draw the enemy’s attention and forces away from a target point and then reconcentrate pressure there faster than the slower enemy can respond.

862. Beware of detached forces that dilute your power more than they weaken your opponent.

863. As stressed earlier, develop a good sense of time, space and troop movement distances and keep objectives and their timetables in mind through the battle. Estimate how many turns it will take troops to get where they need to be. Continually visualize where the battle front, combats, threats, decision points and particularly the schwerpunkt will be or can be the next turn, in two turns, and in 5 turns.

864. Don’t get too micro-tactical and lose sight of the battle as it is now and will be over the next turns.

865. Feeding troops into fair even fights is gambling on attrition rather than tactical skill – the tactical goal is to commit troops with an advantage, reinforcing and exploiting success rather than wasting time and forces to salvage failure. Remember that having a POA advantage in Melee is usually better than having one at Impact, particularly against quality opponents.

866. Pursue judiciously. Rally from pursuit when the troops are presently needed for the local battle, otherwise it is often wise to pursue aggressively with the goal of getting farther behind the enemy line of battle to have more freedom of action, or to ensure even Superior or Elite troops are too battered for a Commander to rally. Pursuing even when outdistanced in order to stay within 6MU of enemy prevents enemy routers from being rallied.

Part 9. Troop Types in FoG

Field of Glory Tactical Tips

Created originally by Mike K and posted on the Slitherine FoG Forum , and appearing here with his kind permission. This is a live WIKI version of the document and so you welcome to edit or add to the content on any of these pages.

If you are adding totally new items to the list of tips, or putting an opposing viewpoint forward for one of the existing tips please do so by adding a new section using letters to supplement the original numerical sequence. ie:
(original point)-407. Non-skirmisher horse are usually 4 bases for shooting Cavalry and good Lancers, while other Cavalry and Cataphracts are often preferred as 6s if affordable.
(new addition) -407.a Fielding large numbers of low-grade cavalry in 4's can allow you to greatly increase unit count, and improve your chances of initiating flank attacks in which their lesser quality/armour becomes irrelevant.
You can use colours if you wish but it's not obligatory. If you are clarifying or enhancing one of the existing tips, feel free to edit the existing point.

The "locked" Original FoG Tactical Tips is available through that link.


Full Index:
1. Army Choice
2. General Tips
3. Doctrine and Drill
4. BG Sizes
5. Commanders
6. Terrain
7. Organization
8. Battle Plans
9. Troop Types in FoG
10. Light Horse Stable
11. Tactical Miscellany
12. Visualizing Battles
13. Wisdom from the Experts



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