Strategic warfare

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BRCS:Chapter six/Armies and warfare » Strategic warfare

If I am able to determine the enemy's dispositions while, at the same time, I conceal my own, then I can concentrate my forces and his must be divided. And if I concentrate while he divides, I can use my entire strength to attack a fraction of his. Therefore, I will be numerically superior.

The enemy must not know where I intend to give battle. For if he does not know where I intend to give battle, he must prepare in a great many places. Numerical weakness comes from having to guard against possible attacks; numerical strength from forcing the enemy to make these preparations against us. – The Art of War

At the strategic level, warfare is broken up in to war moves each lasting approximately one week. During each war move, every regent gets to move troops. After troops have been moved, battles are resolved in areas that have opposing forces. Like character combat, warfare is cyclical - everybody acts in turn in a regular cycle. In domain-level play, war moves are resolved one month (four war moves) at a time, before any domain actions for the month are resolved. Each war move consists of the following phases:

1. Military intelligence: The DM determines which military units are visible to each regent.

2. Strategic movement: Each regent moves his or her troops, in domain initiative order.

3. Strategic adjustment: Hostile regents vie for the opportunity to respond to strategic movement.

4. Battle resolution: After all movement is completed, battles are resolved in all provinces containing opposing forces.

5. Repeat: A new war move begins (repeat, starting from step 1) until all four war moves for the month are resolved.

Military intelligence

Sound military intelligence is absolutely crucial to a military campaign. A regent is almost always aware of the location of his own units, but is not necessarily aware of the current location of opposing forces. A regent attempting to determine the location of enemy troops (the viewing regent) must rely on information retrieved through his agents, or the agents of his trusted allies – other sources are likely to be out of date, misleading, or possibly even planted as part of an active campaign of deception and counter-intelligence.

An army unit is considered to be visible to the viewing regent if the province in which the hostile unit is located satisfies one of the following conditions:

1. The province is claimed by the viewing regent (via investiture or occupation).

2. The viewing regent has a military unit in the province.

3. The viewing regent has a unit of scouts in an adjacent province.

If an army unit becomes visible when entering a province, the viewing regent is aware from which province the unit entered. Furthermore, the regent is aware of which adjacent province a visible unit moves into should it move out of visibility. The viewing regent is aware of the general type (footmen, horsemen, humans, goblins, etc.) of any visible unit. A unit of scouts provides the exact unit type (Anuirean Elite Infantry, Mercenary Goblin Cavalry, etc.) and the normal unit statistics for all units in its current province.

The disposition of units in provinces for which the viewing regent lacks visibility is far more difficult to obtain. Military intelligence is obtainable by spies (via the espionage domain action), magic (via the scry realm spell), diplomacy, or the actions of player characters (via character actions).

A naval unit is visible to the viewing regent only if the viewing regent has a naval unit in the same maritime area.

Strategic movement

The regents' regular domain initiatives determine the order in which they act during the war move. A regent's domain initiative is used for every war move of the entire season (12 war moves). The war move is an abstract period of time appropriate to the scale of the strategic situation. A war move corresponds to approximately one week and the distances moved during each week are measured in provinces (on land) or maritime areas (at sea). Terrain, the existence of roads or highways, the unit type, and the weather affect the number of movement points required to advance through a province. Each unit has a move statistic measured in movement points per war turn. A unit spends it movement points during the war move to advance through provinces.


An army unit's movement rate assumes that the unit is scouting for ambushes, foraging for supplies, carrying tools and military equipment necessary for a unit on the march, and building temporary fortifications for encampment each night. When traveling along major highways in friendly provinces, the unit can travel more lightly and spends less time foraging, thus increasing the number of provinces it can traverse. Conversely, difficult terrain may decrease the number of provinces that an army can traverse per week.

The number of movement points required to advance through a province are listed by terrain type in Table 6-5. These movement rates include all normal overhead, including time spent scouting, foraging for supplies, and building temporary fortifications for encampment each night.

Travel is quickest on major highways in friendly provinces. Paved military/trade highways are engineered to allow for the quick passage of military forces and laden wagons. Highways are domain assets constructed using the build domain action. Such highways have fortified inns or semi-permanent camps, regular supply depots, and other amenities that allow friendly units to travel at an increased rate. Hostile units do not receive any advantage in a province that has highways as taking the minor fortifications that protect the resources of the highway by force is more time consuming than traveling on less well-defended roads.

Table 6-5: Movement point costs by terrain

Plains, Steppe, Scrub
Jungle/Dense forest
Sandy desert
Major river crossing
see below
+ 1 MP
+ 0 MP

Most provinces do not have highways, but almost all civilized provinces have systems of minor roadways, most of which are simple single-land dirt tracks wide enough for a wagon or carriage. All provinces of level 3 or higher are assumed to have normal roads. Provinces of level 2 are considered trackless for purposes of military movement; the few paths that may exist in the province provide no major benefit to an advancing army.

Some units (such as scouts) have the ability to pass freely through some terrains. A unit that can pass freely through a trackless terrain may use the movement point costs as if the province had roads.

Any river that is significant enough to be drawn on the atlas map is considered a major river. Depending on the level of roads within the province, there may be a movement cost associated with passing between any two provinces that have a major river separating them. If either province lacks roads, then no standing ford or bridge exists between the provinces. In this case the army must spend an entire war move constructing rafts, building bridges, and/or floating its wagons across the river. The movement cost to cross a river without a bridge or ford is equal to each units' full movement rating + 1; thus it always takes at least one full war move to cross a wild river. If both provinces have normal roads then the cost to cross a river is 1 MP. This crossing makes uses of existing fords, minor bridges, ferries, and other existing means of crossing the river used by normal travelers. There is no additional cost to cross a river spanned by a military/trade bridge constructed using the build domain action.

Naval terrain

The movement point cost of a naval travel is indicated on the maritime map. Most naval vessels are a deep draft, and thus can traverse only the largest rivers. Light ships may move down a major river traveling from one province directly to an adjacent province on the same river. River movements down river cost 1 MP per adjacent province traveled. Travel upriver costs 2 MP per adjacent province traveled. Keelboats can traverse minor rivers and lakes.


Weather conditions have a significant effect upon the movement of large bodies of armed troops. Prior to each war move, the Dungeon Master can determine the primary weather conditions that dominate the week using Table 3-19: Random Weather, in the Dungeon Master's Guide. Weather conditions effect strategic movement as follows:

Normal weather (01-70): Unit movement is unmodified in normal temperatures.

Abnormal weather (71-80): Abnormally harsh weather is cause for caution. Units cannot perform a forced march during abnormal weather. Units that expend more than half of their movement points receive subdual hit. This penalty is doubled in cold (winter) temperatures.
Naval units: Movement rates are at 3/4 normal speed at sea. In cold weather, naval units must make a morale save against DC 5 or receive a hit.

Inclement weather (81-90): Fog and muddy roads caused by rain, sleet, and deep snow make travel difficult and slow. Units that travel in inclement weather must make a morale save against DC 5 (DC 10 in cold weather) or receive a subdual hit. Normal roads become next to useless in inclement weather – units traveling through provinces that do not have paved highways must move using the movement point cost appropriate for trackless terrain. Travel is difficult and visibility – units are only visible to the viewing regent if A) they are in a province claimed by the viewing regent and the regent has a military unit in the province, or B) a unit of scouts is in the province with the hostile units.
Naval units: Hostile naval units are always invisible in inclement weather. Movement rates are halved at sea. In cold weather, naval units must make a morale save against DC 10 or receive a hit.

Storm (91-99): Military travel is impossible. All ungarrisioned units must make a morale save against a DC 10 (DC 15 in cold weather) or receive one hit of subdual damage. Hostile units are not visible.
Naval units: Hostile naval units are always invisible during stormy weather. Units in coastal areas may put into port immediately. Naval units not in port must make a morale save against a DC 10 (DC 15 during winter) receive a hit. Naval units that do not put into port are forced move their full movement rate in a randomly determined direction. If the unit moves into a coastal province, it must make a morale save against a DC 10 (DC 15 during winter) or run aground and be destroyed.

Powerful storm (100): Travel is impossible. All ungarrisioned units receive one hit. Hostile units are not visible.
Naval units: Hostile naval units are always invisible during stormy weather. Naval units take an automatic hit and must make a morale save against a DC 10 (15 during winter) or founder and be destroyed. Naval units move twice their full movement rate in a randomly determined direction. If they move into a coastal province, they must make a morale save against a DC 15 (DC 20 during winter) or run aground and be destroyed.

Forced march

In a normal day's march, an army unit spends approximately four hours on the move. It takes approximately two daylight hours for an army to wake, break camp, and prepare for the march. After the four hour mark, it takes approximately two hours for soldiers to make camp, construct temporary fortifications, and scout the area. The remaining four hours of daylight are generally spent foraging for food and firewood, in drill, or at ease.

In extremis, a military commander can order their troops to advance for 8 hours a day. A unit that performs a forced march doubles its movement rate for the war move. This is a grueling pace for military unit in full battle dress. Each unit must also make a morale save against a DC 10 or receive one subdual hit. Units receive a +2 circumstance bonus to this morale save in peace-time due to the aid in provisioning and lodging received from local citizens.

Placing units in garrison

Any unit that remains its home province and that does not move or fight for all four war moves is considered to be in garrison. Units must be in garrison in order to train (see improving units), heal damage (see combat basics).

Sailing deep ocean areas

The sailing movement rating of naval units assumes that the vessel hugs the coast and puts into port during night-time hours. Deep ocean-going vessels can sail at double this rate when at deep sea, but traveling far from land adds the risk of being far from port in dangerous conditions.

Encountering hostile forces or fortifications

A visible unit cannot move through a province that contains hostile units without engaging them in battle. If a unit enters a province and finds that it contains hostile units, it may either stay and fight or (if its movement rating allows) retreat back to the province from which it came.

Similarly, an army cannot easily pass through a fortified province. In order to pass through a fortified province, the province's fortifications must be neutralized or conquered. A province's fortifications can be neutralized by putting them under siege. It requires one unit per fortification level to neutralize a province's fortifications. For each season of continuous siege, a province's fortification level is permanently reduced one level. An attacker can also choose to attempt to take a province's castle by storm. Details on taking a fortification by storm are presented in the section on tactical warfare.

Strategic adjustment

Once all regents have moved their units for the war move, opposing regents may vie for a strategic advantage. All regents (or their designated lieutenant generals) make an opposed Warcraft check. In reverse order (i.e. from the lowest check total to the highest), each regent may complete his or her strategic movement by making a final adjustment. Each regent may move any units that have movement points unspent, subject to the following conditions:

1. A regent may not move troops into a province that contains hostile units belonging to a regent with a higher Warcraft check total.

2. A regent may not move troops away from a province that contains hostile units belonging to a regent with a higher Warcraft check total.

Battle resolution

Battles take place when either of two hostile forces occupying a province wishes to engage the other. Battles resulting from a war move are resolved, one at a time, at the end of the same war move. Such conflicts can be resolved in any order desired. Battles can be resolved in several ways: DM fiat, role-playing, quick resolution battle, or tactical battle using war cards.

Tactical battle: The recommended system for resolving tactical battle is the use of War Cards, as described in the next section.

DM Fiat: If the DM has good reason to judge a winning side and the losses taken by each side, he may do so. However, this should generally be done only for minor battles, battles consisting entirely of NPC forces, or for the purposes of plot advancement.

Role-playing: Although challenging, a dedicated DM could conceivably run a sequence of combats to help determine the outcome of a major battle. In practice, this system works best when combined with the tactical battle rules to help determine the combat in which the players take part.

Quick battle resolution: Although tactical war card battle provides an excellent storytelling mechanic, it is sometimes necessary to determine a rough outcome of a battle more simply. The quick battle resolution system provides a mechanic towards this end.

During each quick tactical round, determine the average attack and defense of each army. During the first round only, each unit may use their charge, melee, or missile rating for determining the average attack bonus of the army. During the subsequent rounds, all units must use their melee rating for determining the average attack bonus of the army. Tactical modifiers due to terrain, weather, visibility, and fortifications (refer to the section on tactical warfare) can be applied to these averages to increase the fidelity of the quick resolution at the cost of slowing down the calculation.

After calculating these averages, each army calculates the damage inflicted to the enemy. The number of hits inflicted to the enemy is calculated using the following formula:

Total hits inflicted = 0.05 x (11 + average attack bonus for the attacking army - average defense of target army) x the total number of units in the attacking army.

Each side calculates the number of total number of hits that they inflict to the other side. All fractions should be dropped and the minimum damage inflicted is always 1 hit. Each side distributes the damage to their armies and removes any units which are destroyed (0 hits remaining). New average attack and defenses bonuses are then calculated for each army, and this process repeats until one army is destroyed or until either army chooses to withdraw. A withdrawing army may retreat into any adjacent friendly province that contains no hostile forces. If no such province exists, the army may not retreat. Retreating units are subject to standard movement restrictions, if they do not have sufficient movement remaining to retreat, then they must perform a forced march or be left behind.

The aftermath

After battle, armies will often wish to remain in the embattled province to enjoy the fruits of victory. A defenseless province can be occupied and then pillaged or invested. A province is defenseless only if its province fortifications are neutralized and if there are no defending forces attempting to battle the occupying forces in the province.

Occupation: In order to occupy a province, units must spend four war moves stationary and unopposed in the province. If a unit moves, or is involved in any battle, it may not occupy or pillage the province.

An occupied province is considered to be under martial law and generated no regency and reduced income for its regent. Furthermore, holdings within the province may be destroyed by the occupying forces. Refer to the Occupy Province domain action in Chapter Five for specific details.

Pillaging: Pillaging a province produces immediate loot, but permanently reduces the province level by one. Each pillaging unit gathers 1 GB for the pillaging regent up to a maximum equal to the seasonal taxation for the province (at severe taxation). An occupied province can be pillaged once per month until its level falls to zero.

A province's holdings can be pillaged to generate 1 GB per holding level destroyed. Each pillaging unit may automatically destroy one level of an unfortified temple, law, or guild holding each month. Source holdings cannot be pillaged.

Investiture: An occupied province can be invested only if all province fortifications have been destroyed. Investiture of a province usually requires an official ceremony of investiture performed by a recognized head of church. Refer to investiture in Chapter Five: Ruling a domain.